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Prediction: How will ethical data develop in 2021? (Includes interview)

Data ethics is a wide ranging subject area. In general, the approach to ethical data is about developing a code of behavior encompassing such areas as data handling (generation, recording, curation, processing, dissemination, sharing, and use); plus the use of algorithms and different forms of artificial intelligence.

Speculation is increasing that more firms, including the executive boards, will be held accountable for data breaches and other is mishandlings of data that fall foul of data privacy laws, going forwards. To meet this challenge and to avoid litigation, more firms are adopting ethical data solutions. This is likely to accelerate in 2021, based on predictions on ethical data usage and digital identities made by James Kingston, VP of Research and Innovation Partnerships at Dataswift, AI researcher, and Director of the HAT-LAB. Kingston shares his thoughts with Digital Journal.

Kingston begins by surveying the digital data landscape: “Fueled by the influx of data breaches and the systematic misuse of personal data from Big Tech, consumer data privacy and control will continue to be a huge focus in 2021 and beyond, and we can expect to see more legislation introduced that protects consumer rights and fines businesses for the irresponsible usage of data.”

Kingston adds that adopting data ethics is part of best business practices, noting: “To cultivate trust and improve the customer experience in an increasingly competitive business landscape, more organizations will give consumers ownership and control of their personal data in the coming years. By combining ethical, compliant and privacy-preserving principles with technology infrastructure built to scale for the future, society will move towards a system where the value of data will benefit both individuals and enterprises alike.”

Kingston also considers the value of data and how it is transforming our world: “In a world that is increasingly digital, our online identities hold the key to accessing social, economic and democratic activities. According to a 2019 report by McKinsey, the potential economic value of digital identity by 2030 will be the equivalent of six per cent of GDP in emerging economies, and three per cent in developed economies. In 2021, people online will be able to verify their own identities. This will help the 1.8 billion of those who have no legal form of identity, and will reduce the power of the tech giants.”

Hence, this will reshape business practices. Kingston concludes: “In a society where digital technology is becoming yet more dominant, giving citizens the ability to own and verify their identity (or just their COVID-19 risk score without identity) levels the playing field and holds the key to a more equitable future.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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