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How to think about data as a commodity with similar ethical issues

Published 13 October 2021 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

People often don’t think about sustainability and data together because data is part of the virtual world and most commodities are part of the physical world. But in terms of sustainability they are similar, and companies need to start considering data as similar to physical products in terms of ethics and responsibility.

To rethink data, look at its life cycle and consider the ethical questions that arise:

Data is captured: Is it sourced with permission? Is it accurate? Is it private?

Data is structured: Has it been changed? Is it still accurate? Is it secure?

Data is transported: Where does it reside? What is the environmental impact? Is it secure and private?

Data is sold (and resold): Is there permission to sell? Are the proceeds shared with the original owner?

Data is packaged: Is the analysis accurate? Is there permission to combine data? Are people aware how their data is used?

Data is recycled:  Are old inaccuracies fixed?

Data is disposed of: Is it erased permanently? Is it erased or destroyed in a sustainable way?

As you can see, the life cycle of data gives rise to many things you need to consider – this is why you need to be proactive in developing a comprehensive corporate digital responsibility plan.

For more about how to get started read this.



Further reading: 

Corporate Responsibility in the Digital Era by Michael Wade


Oyku Isik IMD

Öykü Işık

Professor of Digital Strategy and Cybersecurity at IMD

Öykü is Professor of Digital Strategy and Cybersecurity at IMD. Her research focuses on digital resilience and the ways in which disruptive technologies challenge our society and organizations.

Michael Wade - IMD Professor

Michael R. Wade

Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD

Michael holds the Cisco Chair in Digital Business Transformation, he is the Director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation. and he is Co-Director of the Leading Digital Business Transformation program. His areas of expertise relate to strategy, innovation, and digital transformation. He obtained Honours BA, MBA and PhD degrees from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, Canada. Previously, he was the Academic Director of the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program. Michael has been nominated for teaching awards in the MBA, International MBA, and Executive MBA programs.


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