digital ethics


Owning digital responsibility and ethics

Future of risk in the digital era

As part of their digital transformation efforts, organizations need to act responsibly and promote ethical use of technology.

Why is this trend important today?

This article is one of nine trends outlined in Deloitte's Future of risk in the digital era report. 

The power of digital technologies to enable new sources of revenue can be significant. Due to a proliferation of digital technologies and the particular ethical challenges they present, organizations are increasingly expected to consider ethical obligations, social responsibilities, and organizational values as guides to which digital opportunities to pursue and how to pursue them.

As discussed in the Managing data risks for value creation trend, responsible and unbiased collection, handling, use, and privacy are top areas for concern when it comes to data. Also, there are increasing calls for digital services that are fair and equitably accessible, promote physically and mentally healthful uses, encourage inclusion, and are geared toward socially beneficial uses.

Digital adopters want technologies that aren’t harmful or abusive and are safe and error-free. There’s an opportunity to do well by doing good—pursuing digitally responsible growth strategies that build stakeholder trust.

Where has this trend had an impact?

  • As a response to societal concerns around increasing cellphone use, as well as to create long-term value through ethical leadership, a technology company has added new tools to its operating system that help users monitor and curb time spent on mobile devices.
  • A series of accidents involving robotics shined a spotlight on questions of responsibility and decision making by autonomous systems in situations where human judgment isn’t involved.
  • A facial recognition software company has established an “AI ethics board” with the goal to develop public trust and guide its use of artificial intelligence to limit social biases in its future products.

What does this mean for organizations?

  • Changes in strategic choices as organizations think about digital trust as a brand value and market differentiator.
  • Difficulty in making decisions that involve balancing revenue opportunities against brand trust, especially when other market participants may not be behaving in responsible ways.
  • Reputational impact due to unanticipated consequences of innovations, such as when digital assistants “listen in” on conversations or computer-generated voices sound uncannily human. 
  • Legal and regulatory consequences of inappropriate decision making by machines that may amplify social and economic biases or function in ethically gray areas.
  • Pressure to go beyond meeting regulatory requirements and demonstrate good citizenship by promoting thoughtful and socially beneficial use of technology.

How can organizations respond?

  • Integrate ethics in the organization’s strategy by instituting an ethics board or appointing a chief ethics officer that works closely with business units and oversees transformation efforts to guide use of technologies in beneficial ways.
  • Build a culture of responsibility by training employees on industry-leading practices, such as integrating principles of fairness, ethics, and safety though the product or service life cycle, and encouraging desirable behaviors through strong support from the top and supporting performance management systems.
  • Evaluate proposed applications of emerging technologies in products and services to consider possible ethical, social, and cultural implications.
  • Collaborate with industry stakeholders to build ethical frameworks for the use of emerging technologies, in the absence of established standards and norms, to be viewed as the leader in the space.

digital ethics

Return to the main report:

Let’s talk

Contact us to discuss how you can better prepare for what’s ahead. We can help you identify ways for your organization to manage risk, create value, and ultimately power your performance.

Fullwidth SCC. Do not delete! This box/component contains JavaScript that is needed on this page. This message will not be visible when page is activated.

Fullwidth SCC. Do not delete! This box/component contains JavaScript that is needed on this page. This message will not be visible when page is activated.

Did you find this useful?