Apr 30, 2014 2 min read

11 principles for building ethics into your use of big data

In last week’s post, I explained why insurance firms need to integrate privacy protection into the big data dimension to their business models and from this, into how they then manage their products and services. In this post, I’ll outline eleven ethical principles upon which that privacy protection could be based.

Principles like these are important – they will allow firms to explore the business opportunities of big data in ways that engage consumers rather than exploit them. Gains will produce shared value from a consensual relationship, while the impact of wrong turns (of which there’ll be several) will be more understood and accepted.

1.  Accountability, built into how your firm obtains, processes and shares data;

2. Transparency, around the firm how collects, shares and uses data about consumers;

3.  Materiality, by only seeking data from consumers upon terms that are fair and clear;

4.  Traceability, by always knowing where the data you’re holding has come from, how it has been processed and with whom it has been shared;

5.  Adopting a disciplined approach to interpreting outputs from your data-sets, both individual and combined;

6. Think carefully about the identities being created for consumers from those disparate data sources;

7. Controlling secondary use so that how the firm uses its data continues to reflect the context in which it was originally disclosed;

8. Respecting the confidentiality of consumer information that has been shared with you;

9.  Anonymising data so that the interests of those whose data it is are respected;

10.  Boundaries, within which firms can exploit the power of predictive analytics without straying into building associations that the public has long found unacceptable;

11.  Listening to feedback, through formal and informal feedback loops with consumers.

These eleven principles have been written so as to provide individual check points on the integration of ethical issues into how your firm obtains, processes and shares data. They’re each more fully explained in the eBook available for free download using the form below.

So, when next reviewing your business plan or governance arrangements for customer data, use these eleven principles to weigh up how your firm is doing on each one. In this way, you can start to get an eye for how much of an ethical risk your approach to consumer data represents to your firm’s overall strategy. From there, you can start to built appropriate training, monitoring and reporting, so that your firm’s embrace of big data moves forward on surer ground.

Big data is imbued with ethical sensitivities: recognising them sooner rather than later will help your firm become part of a revolution not just in information technology, but in how you engage with your customers and in the value they get from your products and services.

Duncan Minty
Duncan Minty
Duncan has been researching and writing about ethics in insurance for over 20 years. As a Chartered Insurance Practitioner, he combines market knowledge with a strong and independent radar on ethics.
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