The May issue of Admap puts the spotlight on data ethics.

According to the Open Data Institute, data ethics is “a branch of ethics that evaluates data practices with the potential to adversely impact on people and society – in data collection, sharing and use”.

The 2018 Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal which involved the use of millions of people’s personal data to allegedly profile voters in the US highlighted the dark side of data-driven digital marketing. The data privacy scandal attracted the scrutiny of regulators and consumers. This is troubling for the digital marketing industry because online is where many advertisers are investing increasing amount of their budgets.

A variety of thought leaders and experts from across the globe explore various aspects of data ethics. The issue looks at the following themes:

  • The dark side of digital marketing
  • The impact of GDPR
  • The changing data protection landscape in the US, China and India
  • Implications for personalised marketing and the fight for first party data
  • Ethical considerations for AI

In this op-ed, We don’t understand how dangerous we are, Bob Hoffman, author, Ad Contrarian and one of the most sought-after international speakers on advertising and marketing, calls out the data-obsessed adtech industry for underhand tracking and surveillance practices which has led to unintended consequences for the online advertising industry, and society.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Consumers? Ethical considerations at the intersection of AI, Creativity and Marketing Oliver Feldwick, global head of innovation, The&Partnership, outlines four common pitfalls marketers and companies should be conscious of when using AI. In his essay Feldwick insists “each company should have a clear point of view on appropriate use of data, machine learning, targeting and dynamic creative in their working practices. This is sensible business practice that minimises potential fall-out, but is also the right thing to do”. Feldwick offers advice on how marketers can avoid the pitfalls and minimise AI risk.

In Marketers must be proactive to safeguard brand reputation, Jake Dubbins & Harriet Kingaby, co-founds of the Conscious Advertising Network, argue that while some advertisers are taking affirmative action with regards to brand safety issues, more needs to be done. They offer advice and on how to tackle the serious problems in the current online system.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) celebrates its first anniversary later this month. John Mitchison, director of policy and compliance at the DMA examines The future of the data and marketing industry: the post-GDPR era, ePrivacy and responsible marketing, one year on.

Dr. Ann Cavoukian, a three-term Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada and creator of Privacy by Design (PbD), a framework that seeks to proactively embed privacy into the design specifications of information technologies, networked infrastructure and business practices, writes in Smart cities of surveillance that peoples' right to privacy and informational self-determination must be protected as countries develop ‘smart city’ infrastructure.

In “Navigating the CCPA: Anticipating the immediate impact and long-term pitfalls for the advertising industry” Gerard M. Stegmaier, Partner and Mark Quist, Associate, Reed Smith, explain how the California Consumer Privacy Act which takes effect in January 2020 will “transform the legal compliance requirements for businesses that buy, sell, and use personal information throughout the global advertising ecosystem” and that “ultimately, the CCPA and similar proposals may imperil the digital world’s promise of bespoke personalization”. Gerry Stegmaier offers more advice on the impact of CCPA in this Q&A video:

Mark Parsons, Partner, Hogan Lovells looks at the Data protection landscape in APAC and what it means for marketers. He outlines how China’s Personal Information Security Specification and India’s Personal Data Protection Bill will have significant implications marketers. Parsons also highlights Aadhaar, India’s controversial digital identity system that uses biometric data to identify citizens.

In “Potential implications for marketing, measurement and ROI in a post-GDPR world” David Dixon, founder and CEO, Sebastian Shapiro, co-founder & Nicole Wolf, director of communications, Truesight Consulting, examine the impact of GDPR, one year on. The authors discuss implications for personalised marketing, how to engage opt-in consumers, and outline data lessons from the retail banking sector.

Joseph Suriya, Senior Director, Marketing, APAC, Tealium, discusses AI’s unprecedented capabilities and highlights The importance of ethical AI. He notes growing awareness of the potential for AI error – such as biased algorithms - which is prompting demand for regulation. Singapore, China and India are among the countries calling for best practices that aim to ensure AI initiatives are human-centric, and machine-based decisions remain both transparent and objective. Suriya outlines how data-driven companies can take steps right now to make their AI procedures more robust.

In How to use data in an ethical way: Empower the consumer, Emma Firth, communications editor,, explains how the Personal Data Economy gives individuals control of their own data, which they can share directly with companies. According to Firth, “this holds the promise of non-creepy personalisation because the individual is in an equal relationship with the brand, one based on transparent data use, informed consent and mutual benefit”.

In this op-ed, Privacy, marketer risk, and the reform of adtech, Dr. Johnny Ryan, chief policy & industry relations officer, Brave Software, argues that “for all its promise, the digital advertising services industry, is a Wild West with which few CMOs are entirely comfortable. Marketers face legal hazard, opaque fees, unreliable metrics, and an acute ad fraud challenge that appears to be immune to measurement.” Marketers should use the momentum of GDPR and more stringent data protection laws “to demand reform of adtech and help clean up an ailing industry”.

In Ethical-by-design: Lessons from DuckDuckGo, the internet search engine explains how keyword-based advertising is the company's primary business model. This is in contrast to the more invasive micro-targeting or behavioural advertising tactics favoured by others. Dax the Duck, outlines some actionable steps other companies can take to be profitable, and ethical.

Charla Griffy-Brown, Professor, Information Systems and Technology Management at Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business, Pepperdine University, USA and Editor-in-Chief, Technology in Society, discusses AI, data and ethical marketing. She argues risks “are embedded in marketing technologies leveraging AI, such as search and targeting, because it is devoted to delivering to customers what they want to see”. It is therefore “essential to provide a broader context of risk evaluation for AI in order to address the ethical issues specifically within the marketing function”.

In Data Ethics: Lessons from the Co-op, Claire Hadfield, Danny McCarthy, Ian Thomas & Rob McKendrick, The Co-op, explain the organisation’s work with the Open Data Institute (ODI), which is helping the business progress against its vision of being ‘Trusted with Data’.

Rachel Glasser, Chief Privacy Officer, Wunderman Thompson, argues that the industry’s New core values are data privacy and data ethics. Glasser states the industry “needs a commitment to education if it wants useful legislation and a workable and meaningful code of ethics on responsible data uses”.

A. Mills, C. Pitt & S. Lord Ferguson, writing in the Journal of Advertising Research examine The relationship between Fake News and advertising: brand management in the era of programmatic advertising and prolific falsehood. They identify three main drivers of fake news proliferation: inadvertent disinformation, ideological disinformation and exploitative disinformation.

WARC subscribers can access a deck which summarises the expertise and advice from all our contributors.