NEWS13 March 2020

Why ethics matter more than rules in the IoT age

AI GDPR Impact 2020 News Privacy Technology UK

UK – Market researchers must look at their use of data through an ethical lens as well as a legal one, or risk losing consumers’ trust in an age of ultra-connectiveness. 

Privacy IOT panel Impact 2020_crop

The rallying call was made at MRS Impact 2020 by Sophie Harding, futures and insights director at Mindshare UK, Melissa Bane, Europe managing director at Grail Insights, and the MRS’ data and privacy counsel Camilla Ravazzolo. The internet of things (IoT), they said, and the vast tracts of data it would produce, changes the game. 

Ravazzolo (pictured, right) said the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set the scene for future directives in that it attempted to somewhat future-proof itself by being technology agnostic and codifying itself. 

“We’re on the right path – both consumers and now regulators are taking privacy and security concern seriously but at the same time we’re far from an ideal solution,” she said, adding: “Effective regulation will always lag behind advances in technology.”

Instead, practitioners and companies should look to the spirit of laws, rather than the letter: they should draw up ethical frameworks that took into consideration the consumer and his or her “comfort zone”.

This was particularly pertinent, said Harding (pictured, second left), as different generations and audiences worried about the risks of sharing their data in different ways and to differing degrees. 

For all, the maturation of IoT – from smartphones to smart speakers, smart fridges and smart cities – would provide far more, and far more valuable, data to market researchers, but there were risks attached. This, particularly, as 5G connectivity becomes more prevalent, allowing for the mainstream adoption of IoT use cases.

This could provide a boon for society, said Harding, mentioning advances in healthcare, home security, augmented reality and more. However, with increased opportunity came increased risk, discomfort and an increased need to ask what the data was needed for. And that meant increased scrutiny of where and how the data comes from. 

Said Bane (pictured, second right): “The challenge is that some vendors are figuring it out in real time. And we’re seeing this be defined in real time what is acceptable – not necessarily from a legal perspective but a comfort perspective.”

She urged everyone to ask more questions when vetting vendors in order to discover how data was collected and used.  “We’re in a no man’s land right now,” she concluded.