JERSEY CITY, NJ: The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the trade body, is developing a new code of conduct that can guide the insights industry at a time of rapid change.

Scott McDonald, president/CEO of the ARF, discussed this subject during a keynote session at the organisation’s AUDIENCExSCIENCE conference.

And he pointed to a recent scandal involving Cambridge Analytica​ – a now-defunct research firm accused of harvesting data from several millions users of Facebook, the social network – as a clear indicator of the need for fresh standards.

“We have proceeded in developing our own code of ethics … that is now ready for review by a special committee that's been assembled [for that purpose],” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: “Fake” research drives ARF to build new code of conduct.)

McDonald expects the new code of conduct to be grounded in four broad principles: honesty, integrity, transparency, and a chain of trust. The last item, he insisted, “becomes very important” in the big-data era.

“And, it implies that the consumer – whether it be a brand in the global marketplace or a customer at home – can have a strong degree of confidence that the information supporting the research wasn't obtained in any kind of underhanded manner,” he continued.

In more detail, he added, “We want to say we won't subject research participants to unwanted marketing messages. We’ll protect their privacy.

“Those are kind of standard features of most of the research-oriented codes of conduct, but also ethical conduct, with regard to clients, with regard to our profession and to the public.”

The working draft, he suggested, will address “some sector-specific codes that wouldn't be applicable across the board but are [relevant] in the cases of passive behavioral data, neuro-sensor and biometric data, as well as location-based data – each of which have some specific and particular features.”

In his rallying cry for a new code of ethics and conduct, McDonald concluded, “We need consumer data to advance the needs of our industry.

“But to continue to have the right to access that data, we must demonstrate respect for our partner, and value to a greater extent the courtesy our partner has extended us.”

Sourced from WARC