Why Data Ethics Matter

By Association Adviser staff • December 14, 2020

Data is a tool – a means to an end – that we use to make informed, strategic decisions. It’s a powerful tool your association should use, but with that power comes an immense responsibility.

All aspects of data, from collection to storage to usage, need to be carefully weighed against an ethical framework that not only follows the law (including GDPR and CCPA) but determines right and wrong based on your association’s core values. Poor handling of data could result in security risks, broken trust and a marred reputation among your members.

Data ethics questions to ask yourself

Liz Rumsey, CAE, director of information strategy & business analysis for the Society for Neuroscience, and Karine Blaufuss, director of business data and intelligence for the American Geophysical Union, shared these important questions your association should ask related to the data you collect and use at ASAE’s 2020 Technology Exploration Conference (TEC):

  • How do you collect data?
  • Why do you collect the data you have?
  • How do you then use that data?
  • Who has access to the data you collect?
  • Do those people have the right skills to manage your data?
  • Is anyone negatively affected by the ways in which you collect and use data?
  • What are your practices around data retention and sharing?

Balance the need for data with respect for privacy

In the end, your association should balance the data you need to collect to provide a personalized experience with indivduals’ right to privacy. Respect that not everyone is comfortable with the collection of their data. By being transparent about why you collect data, how you use it, how you store it, and helping make sure your members know their rights around the data you collect, you build trust and increase engagement.

Building trust is important because a lack of trust can lead to bad data. Your association can protect the integrity of your data by offering opt-in content (even in cases when it’s not required legally) and always giving members the option not to answer or provide data.

If you build a rapport and trust, over time your data will be more accurate and more robust. But time is the key; don’t ask for all the data you could ever need at once, particularly without being clear on when and how it will be used.