Insight versus Information: Data Ethics

In this age of information there is a fine line between providing insight and simply selling consumer information. Ok, so maybe the line isn't so fine, maybe it's as wide as a road. So why does the CEO cross the road? To get to the other money of course.

There are industries where the collection of data is unavoidable. For example, banks, financial clearing houses, card processors (think Visa, MasterCard, American Express Discover etc.) all collect and store massive amounts of 'spending' data. This is the type of 'big' data that could provide clues to our future spending habits, or perhaps even predict what company is going to have a good quarter. I imagine that type of information would be very valuable.

Honesty is the best policy, when there is money in it. ~ Mark Twain

In speaking with captains of industry who find themselves faced with these decisions I have learned that the line or road isn't always so easy to see. Sometimes that blurred vision is simply a matter of not looking for it; because looking for it could cost, in lost opportunities. Still there are companies who define opportunities not by the 'win-win' principle but by the 'win-win-win' principle. How do we define the win-win-win? This is where companies, their clients and consumers all win.

You know it when you see it.

When companies provide the insights to help their clients benefit their consumers; big data becomes a sustainable raw material. Often when companies simply sell information they lose sight of that data and ultimately their way. Inherently the opportunity for abuse and exploitation is created.


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