When It Comes to Data Collection, Transparency and Ethical Standards Are Not a Matter of Choice

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Online data collection is an incredibly powerful tool. It enables you to gather real-time market intelligence effectively. By nature, online data is sourced from a wide variety of websites. Therefore, it’s essential that the companies collecting and leveraging the data have a strong ethical standard for how that data is collected. For websites that collect data from customers, it’s equally important that those customers are made aware of what data has been collected by websites.

Many customers and individuals are already inherently skeptical about their data being collected and tracked — anyone who’s been followed across the internet by ads for a pair of shoes they only looked at once can attest to this. In fact, according to Salesforce, almost half of all customers say they’re unaware of how their data and assets are being used. And according to a PWC report, 36 percent of consumers are less comfortable sharing their data with companies.

This lack of transparency between customers and businesses has unfortunately given public online data collection a misunderstood reputation, which has translated into a lack of consumer trust. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, there’s an industry-wide movement towards ethical data collection. It is being led by organizations like the World Ethical Data Forum (WEDF) and not only looks into the complex data collection questions but also addresses them.

There has also been greater attention from regulators and governments on the online data collection space recently — including Washington and New York — further highlighting the need for industry-wide commitment to more stringent ethical standards. These laws are common-sense measures to protect consumers, and companies with inherently ethical practices should already be compliant in most cases.   

A Commitment to Ethical Online Data Collection

We recently celebrated World Data Privacy Day, which was the perfect reminder of the importance of transparency and ethical standards when it comes to online data collection. One facet of this standard is the essential need for businesses to give customers the option to opt-in to having their data collected — and for these customers to be informed about what exactly opting in means. They should also be able to opt-out just as easily and quickly. This level of transparency promotes trust, which in turn spurs more customers to opt-in, fueling businesses with more data — a game-changer when it comes to gaining a competitive advantage.  

It doesn’t stop with businesses collecting customer data. The companies that provide online data collection technology, which can collect publicly available data from around the web, must also commit to complete transparency. This is so their own customers will know that the data they’re using is reliable and sourced ethically, meaning it hasn’t caused damage to the online sphere by overloading it or by using unethical methods. It also means it has been collected from trustworthy open websites using an ethical data collection network. Regulators have already started shifting their attention to behind the scenes of the data collection process. This means all businesses must now pay attention to prevent future challenges.

The Standards to Look for

For businesses that want to utilize online data that was sourced from beyond their customer base, using an automated data collection provider will be needed. It’s not always easy to spot the good guys from the bad, and this also pertains to selecting an online data collection provider. Below are key values and standards to look for when selecting a service:

  • Consent: Full, clearly stated detailed consent for customer opt-in must always be required.
  • The Stringency of Compliance Measures: Online data should serve the goal of promoting web-transparency and providing businesses equal access to the web. The provider should promote such business cases and be open about their compliance and ethics guidelines. This should serve as an integral part of their value proposition to their customers, clearly stating cases that have been allowed or refused in the past. 
  • Continuous Monitoring:The data collector should be able to articulate how they actively monitor any users that are attempting illegitimate actions, such as fake engagement on social media channels and more.
  • Compliance to All Major Regulations: GRPR and CCPA compliance is an absolute must, and the company should be able to prove that they are adherent to these laws as well as future emerging laws.

Ultimately, public online data collection is a tool that most businesses rely on since it’s the largest source of information that keeps being fed in real-time. Online data provides businesses with insights that help them offer better products and customer service or experience. Online data also helps businesses anticipate consumer demand and fuel inventiveness. With well-defined ethical standards promoted across the entire organization, including transparency in all actions and comprehensive customer-centered compliance measures, online data collection can continue to serve as businesses’ and consumers’ best ally for a thriving, openly competitive, and creative market.

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