Ethical Technology: a priority for all businesses
A common theme in Deloitte’s Tech Trends reports is that every company is now a technology company.
Whether we’re tracking employee productivity, asking customers for personal information or analysing consumer behaviour/engagement through online cookies – technology is being used across all business functions.
As we digitally mature, technology continues to transform and disrupt all aspects of organisational structures and processes. And with every new piece of technology implemented, there is an opportunity to gain or lose stakeholder’s trust.
With trust being so easy to lose and so difficult to win back, businesses are viewing ethical technology policies and processes (in addition to legal, security, PR etc.) business critical if they want to benefit from innovation and differentiate themselves (for the right reasons!).
- We need employees to trust new technology in order to embrace change and utilize new platforms.
- We need customers to trust that any information shared is secure and protected.
- We need company board members and investors to trust the business is operating ethically and effectively to continue investing in new technologies, allowing for future growth.
The range of technological uses and forms has led to policymakers asking the question: what area of technology ethics should we focus on? A hard question to answer, and one that will be unique to each and every business. However, to give some guidance, last year the Bennett Institute for public policy released an article discussing this, and the key themes highlighted were as follows:
- Privacy and surveillance
- Bias, discrimination, and injustice in algorithmic decisioning
- Encoding of ethical assumptions in autonomous vehicle systems
- Artificial general intelligence as an existential risk to humanity
- Software user interface design as an impediment to human flourishing
- Job displacement from machine-learning and robotics
- Monetary compensation for personal data use
CTOs – and the wider IT team (perm and contract) – need to be familiar with company values to ensure they are using, developing and implementing new technologies (including software, coding, infrastructures, and everything in between), inline with ethical policies. They also need to take responsibility for ethical tech and be confident advising stakeholders when investing in new technology; from how it should be used to potential risks.
We should not fear technology, but we need to consider how it’s being used and who we need to communicate this with. Ethical technology policies should not replace current policies, but complement and connect them to ensure innovation is delivering agility and speed, without compromising a business’s purpose or core values; this includes everything, from data privacy to bias in algorithms.
Deloitte has released a really insightful article which discusses this topic further here.