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Changing the Game of Business Success by Rethinking Data Ethics

Illustrative image of an anonymous hacker displayed on a monitor with their hands reaching out over the edge of the monitor into the real world.

Changing the Game of Business Success by Rethinking Data Ethics

In this digital age, data is the life blood of businesses worldwide. Whether it’s customer information, intellectual property, or sensitive financial data, companies rely on vast amounts of information to operate and make informed decisions. With the significant rise of cyber-attacks, even small to medium sized enterprises are forced to rethink their approach to cyber security and how they use data ethically, while turning these challenges into opportunities to transform and excel in today’s competitive landscape.

The Traditional Approach to Cyber Security

In the past, many businesses focused primarily on a defensive approach to cyber security. Their primary objective was to prevent unauthorised access to their systems including preventing data breaches. They relied on firewalls, antivirus software, and other security tools. While these measures are essential, they represent only a fraction of the bigger picture necessary to combat today’s cyber security minefield.

In the traditional model, compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks often took precedence and the importance of ethical considerations were not articulated. If a company complied with the minimum legal standards, it was considered “safe” in the eyes of the law.  However, this approach lacks the depth needed to navigate the complexities of modern cybersecurity, data ethics and to avoid being a victim of cyber-bullying and hacking.

The Ethical Paradigm:  Nurturing a Data Ethical Culture

A significant shift has taken place in recent years as businesses recognise that a proactive, ethical approach to cyber security provides a substantial competitive advantage.

In the past, people created forms that your customers, prospective customers, contacts and employees filled out.

All sorts of information was collected such as your financial records, health records, legal files, education profiles, drivers licence details, visa details, employment records and a host of other items that included Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Naively, people believed that because it supported a browser-based SSL encryption key, their information was safe and secure, however they completely overlooked what was done with their information, who had access to it, how was it being shared, what legal jurisdiction applied and when was it going to be deleted.

Was a PDF of your complete personal profile, health record, financial position, or rental history sent via unencrypted email willy nilly to anyone that someone thought might need it? Was it being sold to another company so they can direct market to you? Did your landlord get a copy of your complete financial and employment particulars when you applied to rent a property? Did they gain explicit consent from you about who they intended to share your private information with?

Did the recipient of your data even comprehend their legal obligations with regards to handling your sensitive and confidential information?

The paradigm shift now requires you to understand and act on data ethics. Here’s how this paradigm shift is transforming the business landscape…

1.    Fostering Trust and Customer Respect

In an era of data breaches and privacy scandals, customers are more conscious than ever about how their data is handled. Ethical data conduct sends a strong message to your customers that you respect their privacy and will protect their information. By doing so, you foster trust and respect that can lead to customer loyalty and advocacy.

2.    Complying with Stringent Regulation
Regulatory bodies worldwide are enacting stricter data protection laws, such as the European Union’s GDPR, United Kingdom’s ICO, Australia’s OAIC to name only a few. Ethical business practices that prioritise data protection not only helps ensure compliance with regulations, but it also help businesses avoid hefty fines and further legal troubles.

3.    Minimising Brand Reputation Risks

Reputation is a vital intangible asset.  Cyber incidents can quickly erode trust, leading to a tarnished brand image. Ethical cyber security practices not only help prevent data breaches but also provide a strong defence against potential reputational risks.

4.    Gaining Competitive Advantage
Businesses that prioritise ethical data conduct and cyber security are more attractive to partners, clients, and investors. They can also outperform competitors by attracting top talent and customers who value data security and ethical behaviour.

Click here for A Framework for Robust Data Management and Privacy Assurance

Ethical Data in Practice

As an example, consider a solution suitable for use by government agencies, education providers, private companies any businesses wanting to capture and store confidential and or private information. Some of the key factors to consider include:

•    All information is encrypted during transmission, and at rest and information is not passed offshore.
•    Accessing confidential information is limited to users with appropriate user permissions having unique passwords.
•    All data is exclusively stored within Australia and managed by a company with international certification to ISO/IEC 27001 (Information Security Management System).
•    All users must be explicitly approved before gaining access any stored information.
•    Any changes to stored data are logged and written to an audit trail.
•    Emails can be sent that excludes any PII or confidential information and users are required to login and securely access their files.
•    Formal data archiving options are supported to comply with the most stringent privacy regulations meaning information is purged automatically when no longer needed.
•    Support for multi-factor Authentication is available (e.g. via SMS or other options).

By adopting ethical data conduct, businesses cannot only help safeguard their future but also thrive in the landscape where trust, respect, and security is increasingly paramount.

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