Algorithms that generate fake news and are distributed on social media, medical studies whose database does not include certain population groups, deliberately placed negative company reviews on Google Maps generated by artificial intelligence (AI) are just some examples that prove that digitization brings not only positive impulses to the economy and society, but has a high potential for destruction, too.
Digital ethics is and will be of great social relevance, as we are seeing more and more people questioning the values behind software, AI, or applications. Companies of all sizes and from all industries must therefore develop a strategy for how to approach and treat their issues.
According to Christoph Bräunlich of the software manufacturer BSI and VP of the Swiss Insights Association, you should consider three aspects to be prepared:
1. Disclose your algorithms and processes
If you want to gain the trust of your employees, customers, partners, and society as a whole, it is important that you are transparent to your workforce, but also to people outside of the organization, regarding your use of data, models, and algorithms. In-house and confidential information is of course excluded.
2. Check the database of your analysis critically for possible bias
The quality of your algorithms is only as good as the data and information on which they are applied: E.g., if a text that you analyze has a racist undertone, the analysis based on it will have such a tendency, too; or if databases that are used for recruiting by companies neglect or systematically disadvantage certain population groups, or otherwise show a certain one-sidedness, the company limits itself in the selection of personnel and some candidates get excluded at the outset; or it has already become known from medical research that some studies have, for example, a gender-unfair design. This clearly shows that the subject of “data ethics” is about more than “just” data protection, affecting companies and organizations in all industries.
3. Define digital values in your company
If you want to actively drive digital change, sooner or later you will have to deal with the topic of digital ethics. Start defining values for the digital world and make sure that they are lived. This will also strengthen trust in your company and improve your relationships. Clearly, the topic of data ethics is very comprehensive, because ultimately it is about the fair treatment of people, brands, and objects, but also about guaranteeing the objectivity of data analysis. The implementation of appropriate measures is undoubtedly associated with effort, but it certainly also offers opportunities.
"Digital ethics is similar to the subject of environmental protection: If we do not deal with it and act consistently, it will have devastating consequences for people," comments Christoph Bräunlich. “However, companies who contribute to a positive culture in the context of digital business models are not only perceived as innovative, but as an organization that takes on social responsibility, making companies more attractive to new employees. "
In a nutshell, digitization requires companies to be aware of their values and act responsibly, as this is the only way to achieve social acceptance of new technologies and business models.
By Daniela La Marca