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The Age of AI Can’t Be Plagued With Empty Promises
Ethical Use of Data Requires Companies to Say What They Mean and Mean What They Say
In the Age of AI, companies will be pressured to benefit from user data in any way possible. Users deserve to know how and why their data is being used.
Transparency: Businesses must communicate – in simple language – how they will use the data they collect, who they will share that data with, and how long they plan on storing the data.
Transparency is one of our core principles because in order for technology to help society flourish in a positive direction, people need to know what on earth their technology is actually doing.
The first step towards transparency is for companies to make their policies comprehensible.
When you’re asked what a product’s terms and agreement actually meant … (source)
The second step is to share how the company will actually use the data they collect.
Even without knowing all their future data applications, companies can still give users a clear sense of what purposes they have for user data. Users need to know why they are giving up their data for them to meaningfully consent to a company’s terms.
Overly broad data rights can alienate users. Zoom recently had to walk back updates to their privacy terms requiring users to “grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license” for all future purposes, including for AI models. Users were outraged that their personal data would be used in perpetuity for AI, and after facing blowback, the company retracted its policy.
The third step is to let users know exactly who their data will be shared with.
Users deserve to know whether or not their data is going to end up in other organizations. For example, the UK’s NHS health system has faced criticism after internal documents appeared ordering patient data to be shared with Palantir. Even an organization with ethical and secure internal data management systems can lose their users’ trust if they aren’t clear about where data will be shared.
The last step is to make it clear how long a user's data will be stored.
It’s not enough to simply know the purpose for data, users also need to know how long their data will remain in your possession. If a company is going to hold data in perpetuity, users deserve to know before they give access to their intimate information.
The big ethical question is: How can organizations derive value from individuals’ data - value that they can deliver back to users and customers - while being transparent, reasonable, and straightforward in communication?
Tell us your thoughts - What policies or methods would you recommend firms adopt to guarantee data transparency? What tools and tactics do successful companies use to remain transparent with users? How can firms avoid a PR disaster (like Zoom recently experienced) by being open and transparent about data use from the get-go?
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