By Or Lenchner, CEO at Luminati Networks
The digital world lives and breathes data. Every month, if not every day, brings new data-driven innovations. The data revolution of 2020 can be seen across many different industries, especially now online data has become the go-to adviser for businesses, companies, and organisations. Not to mention that, today, over 30% of the population has shifted to online channels in just the span of a few months. It’s no wonder that data is being collected at an increasingly accelerated pace. Therefore, it’s time to take a closer look at data collection strategies and practices.
When the industry speaks about data ethics, it is mostly talking about issues dealing with data privacy and global regulations. But what about the technology used to collect data and online data in particular? What happens behind the scenes of data collection operations? Since data is such a powerful tool, isn’t it time to address the technology that enables its online collection as well?
Along with power comes responsibility
Industries, enterprises, and tech giants in particular are coming to grips with the idea that holding so much data involves more than just power but also responsibility. We all need to think about how to ensure that data collection is done in an ethical and responsible manner. This is especially important now, when the public is becoming more wary of data collection and governments are continuing to legislate regulations to curb online abuses. Every data collection operation needs to respect the public, the digital sphere and all businesses worldwide.
Here’s why. For an online data collection network to be effective, it must be robust and extensive enough to be able to reach any openly available online data source anywhere in the world. Here’s where businesses run into obstacles. What’s available to you and me online as consumers is not necessarily available for businesses. Naturally, businesses, which collect online data to remain competitive, want access to their competitors’ web data. However, that can be become a complex operation in the making. Today, companies are hugely protective of their online data, even when referring to public data. As such, their websites will most likely immediately identify and block any competitors from viewing them.
This is where a data collection network can play a huge role in leveling the playing field. It is built from millions of real IP addresses belonging to actual consumers who have willingly and knowingly contributed them in return for a significant benefit. For the data collection network to thrive, those consumers’ IPs are essential. However, they cannot be collected without one hugely significant tool –transparency.
An ethical data collection network starts with transparency
Every company that has a data collection operation must always ask itself the following: How transparent is the network? For example, are consumers aware that their data is being collected? Have they given their consent? Are they fully aware of the type of data being collected and how it is going to be used?
The discussion about transparency should include more than just data privacy. It should also cover the behind the scenes of the actual process of data gathering. This is just as important and is now rapidly moving to the spotlight.
Shifting the focus – the process itself
Over the last few years, data privacy has been discussed at length – within and across all industries and in mainstream conversations. These days, regulators are shifting their focus to the data collection process itself. At the same time, more and more companies are investing great resources in data collection (as it is getting harder to obtain publicly available data). The combination of these factors suggests that data collection regulations will soon follow.
The risks of running an unethical data collection operation have become too extensive to ignore. A business can potentially cause huge damage to the digital ecosystem as well as to the general population’s privacy without even knowing it. This is possible because many businesses use external networks to reach the competitive data they need at the rapid pace they need it. However, many of these external networks neither follow a transparent approach to data collection nor can they ensure ethical conduct.
With the world’s digital population expanding by the minute, and online data moving to the forefront of many businesses’ strategic goals, the need for ethical-by-design data collection processes has never been so critical.
Don’t wait for the regulators – start on your own today
Technology is moving fast, much faster than regulations are evolving. Therefore, any business aspiring to collect data on a large scale must ensure that they are embracing an ethical by-design approach to data collection. This is essential when legislation hasn’t yet caught up with the pace of technological innovation.
So, ask yourself, is the data collection network you are using transparent? Do you know how the data is actually being collected? Are you abiding by each and every data privacy regulation? Is the network secure and being used for legitimate cases only, i.e., by those promoting openness and transparency?
These questions are vital and should never be ignored. After all, data is a powerful tool – probably the most powerful tool a business can hold these days. As such, it should be treated with the utmost professional respect.