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Shifting to the ethical mindset when making data decisions

Pam S. Hrubey (pam.hrubey@crowe.com) is Managing Director and Candice M. Moschell (candice.moschell@crowe.com) is Senior Manager of Healthcare Cybersecurity at Crowe LLP in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Handling personal data ethically is a relatively new concept that requires thinking differently about data privacy and security.[1] Decision-makers and leaders who shift from compliance-based to ethics-driven decisions can provide significant value to their organizations.

More than ever, organizations are using personal information to do business—sometimes without the owners’ explicit consent. Maybe that use is an ad[2] that shows up during an unrelated web search, or maybe it appears as a solicitation[3] from an organization with whom the owner of the information desires no involvement. Over the past three to five years, data analytics and data mining to drive business decisions and smart advertising have dramatically increased[4] the potential for organizations to operate less transparently regarding their business use of personal information.

While the use of personal information in a nontransparent way might be on the rise, some companies also are starting to see a tangible benefit from investments they have made or are making in their privacy and data protection programs. Cisco’s Data Privacy Benchmark Study,[5] released in January, describes a return on investment made into privacy-related programming, which demonstrates that most organizations are seeing a positive return on their privacy investments. Based on the results of this benchmark study and on extensive experience supporting clients across a variety of industries and leading in executive-level privacy practitioner roles, it is clear that taking a data ethics approach to collecting, processing, retaining, and destroying personal information can provide a similarly positive return on program-related investments.

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