Data and emerging technology: The new ethics and compliance frontier

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Companies are investing significantly in digital transformation, data, artificial intelligence (AI), and other emerging technologies (collectively, digital tools). PwC reports that 60% of surveyed executives identified digital transformation as “their most critical growth driver in 2022.”[1] International Data Corporation (IDC) projects that digital transformation spending will “reach $2.8 trillion in 2025, more than double the amount allocated in 2020.”[2] Not surprisingly, emerging technologies have experienced similar growth. AI reportedly had a market value of $93.5 billion in 2021, and this market value “is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate … of 38.1% from 2022 to 2030.”[3] Similarly, the metaverse market could reach $800 billion by 2024.[4]

This trend extends across many industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, defense, automotive, consumer products, and others not traditionally associated with technology. For instance, McDonald’s has invested in AI to enhance its customer experience,[5] and Domino’s has become a “truly digital–first business.”[6] IKEA employs AI and augmented and virtual reality to help consumers visualize furnishings in their homes,[7] and chatbots have become staples in customer service. Data and AI are also increasingly used to support human resource functions, supply chain management, and other internal operations.

As companies strive to harness the benefits of digital tools, compliance departments should adapt to support them. To begin, compliance departments should familiarize themselves with the relevant digital tools and their potential benefits and risks. Additionally, compliance departments should implement strategies for managing the risks in ways that also help organizations capitalize, in a compliant and trusted manner, on the beneficial uses of digital tools.

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