NEW YORK: The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the trade body, is seeking to create a new code of ethics for data collection and protection, an issue brought to a head by recent allegations concerning Cambridge Analytica.

Scott McDonald, president/CEO of the ARF, discussed this subject during a keynote session at the industry association’s 2018 CONSUMERxSCIENCE conference.

And he asserted that Cambridge Analytica, the analytics firm, will be stripped of a Gold honor from the ARF’s 2017 Ogilvy Awards for work on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign if accusations it harvested data of 50m Facebook users are true.

While the easiest option would be to position this fermenting crisis as a one-off illustration of malpractice, the ARF chief also took a different view – and one that indicates his desire to tackle the industry’s deeper failings.

“If we’re all being candid and honest, the Cambridge Analytica episode is not a shock or a surprise; it’s receiving attention in part because of who the work benefited,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: ARF’s McDonald seeks new ethical code for researchers.)

“But we did not need this incident to bring to light that, in a fast-evolving world of big data and technological data collection, there already are many questionable practices going on.”

From repeated privacy breaches to flashlight apps for smartphones that request access to a user’s microphone, contacts list and location, the lack of due care and attention surrounding consumer data has grown increasingly obvious.

“The reality is that the ability of technology to collect data is outstripping the guidelines in place to ensure that sound business practices are being followed,” McDonald argued.

“Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. The Cambridge [Analytica] event is a reckoning, but not a revelation.”

This “reckoning” may well lead to heightened government regulation, but the industry must also enhance its own efforts to improve ethical behaviour, McDonald stated.

“The ARF … is calling for the development, and establishment, of guidelines and standards to govern consumer data collection and protection,” he said.

“We invite all the industry members, and related industry associations, to join with us to not only contribute ideas and thoughts, but to work with our constituents to ensure adoption once developed.”

Sourced from WARC