Data Ethics and Ethical Technology Issues


Trustworthy technology cannot be an afterthought

Reshaping the ethical use of technology

At its best, technology has helped people build more productive and joyful lives. However, the same tech that powers our lives can cause lasting harm at scale. That’s why organizations have a responsibility to develop principles and practices around ethical technology issues. You can never start too early, but you can always start too late.

The promise of tech

We have powerful devices and software in front of our faces, on our wrists, and in our pockets—technology is woven into every facet of our lives. And whether they’re addressed or not, technology ethics are part of our lives as well. They aren’t always considered as part of product development in businesses, yet in order to fully realize the potential of tech, companies have to grapple with ethical issues in technology.

Integrating consideration of privacy, security, and ethical implications into the development process of the technology you’re building can make it easier to address those issues. We’ve all been dazzled by something new and then seen the negative ramifications when obvious ethics questions weren’t considered; so why not make consideration part of the development process itself?

Visualizing Trustworthy & Ethical Technology

The danger of unintended harms

Neglecting to form an internal structure dedicated to promoting standards and practices—and applying those standards consistently—can affect people’s lives in harmful ways. Racial and gender biases can be baked into AI. Misrepresented actions (through deepfakes and manipulated imagery) can cause distrust in people and institutions. The tools meant to improve our lives could end up harming people and creating inequity. At its best, technology can foster a more productive society when people can use it and trust it. But they’ll only do that when that tech is developed and applied with an ethical lens.

Sharing the future

When you can anticipate an issue, you can address it. Ethical technology issues aren’t new, and we’re all in a position to share knowledge and develop principles with one another (some of which are described in our article “Trustworthy and Ethical Tech: The Leadership Challenge,” as published in MIT Sloan Management Review). By convening specialists from across many industries and sectors to advance a broad consensus and apply shared standards, trust can be a centerpiece of innovation. Admittedly, it’s impossible to predict every trust issue that may emerge; even if we could, we would probably still have to make compromises on which issues are worth addressing in the development process. Right now, the questions around ethics—much less the question of what to compromise—aren’t consistently part of the process. But if we’ve learned anything from the recent past, it’s far better to ask questions sooner than scramble for answers later.

By making this a shared journey, we can explore and develop answers around the ethical issues of technology. You can learn much more by downloading “Visualizing Trustworthy & Ethical Technology” by Beena Ammanath and starting conversations within your organization.

Did you find this useful?