Scott McDonald, ARF CEO & President, brought this topic to the forefront at our CONSUMERxSCIENCE conference on March 27 and 28, 2018. He opened the event by laying out the proposition that science was: dispassionate, methodical, skeptical, collegial, evidence-based, and theoretically-grounded. Scott noted that facts are not the same as values, that while facts can be wrested from a complex universe by close observation and disciplined experiment, values can’t be “proven” in the same way as facts. Rather, they arise from some shared understanding of what we regard as right, as ethical, as decent or fair.
The ARF, in collaboration with GreenBook and AMA New York, hosted a Town Hall on Thursday, April 26th, to address salient issues surrounding a code of ethics. These include:
- What ethical guidelines shape the use of “secondary data” collected for some other purpose, but now used for research?
- What responsibility do researchers have to ensure that the data they are using were collected legally, without any deception?
- What rights do consumers have to know about and approve for the uses to which their data are put?
- What obligations do researchers have to protect consumers from harm that might come from the misuse of their data?
- What ethical guidelines should govern profiling and highly-targeted communications?
The ARF’s meta-analysis found that: Associations tend to have policies based on similar principles. While strong, they are generally traditional and do not deal with the ongoing growth of technology in the advertising sector. Research companies tend to focus on protecting survey respondents. Some of the policies are a bit old and fail to recognize methods. Social media companies offered transparency in their policies. However, some of these are long and complex, raising the question of whether consumers read, or even understand them.
Highlights from other presentations and discussions:
Allie Bohm, of the non-profit Public Knowledge, said consumers are overwhelmed by the complexity of most data policies and, as a result, agree to them without reading or understanding them.
A panel discussion included Rick Bruner, ICOM, Rolfe Swinton, GFK, and Tania Yuki, Shareablee and moderated by the ARF’s Paul Donato. There was a wide range of views on how to encourage and enforce data ethics, e.g., the role of self-regulation.
Ben Hoxie, at mParticle, noted a key difference in the Europeans’ philosophy about data: the GDPR assumes that data protection is a “human right.” In contrast, in the U.S. privacy restrictions are more sector specific.
As a next step, the ARF will form a committee comprised of ARF members to advise on future standards. The ARF’s initial recommendations will be shared at the ARF’s AUDIENCExSCIENCE conference, being held on June 12-13, 2018.
Click here for the presentations and additional information about the Town Hall.