Taking a more ethical business approach

Managing director of DMA Rachel Aldighieri on the importance of trust

Rachel Aldighieri: More transparency will help identify and remove bias to create a fairer, more inclusive approach.
Rachel Aldighieri: More transparency will help identify and remove bias to create a fairer, more inclusive approach.

What is the DMA’s Value of Data campaign?

It was developed with a view to elevating and championing the role and status of data across organisations so they can responsibly deliver more value to customers. We started with a goal of uncovering the monetary worth of data, yet it became apparent that while providing data with financial worth will ensure it is nurtured as a true asset, it is how organisations use data that provides true value. The campaign evolved to focus on how an ethical, customer-first approach to data can reap rewards.

Our campaign seeks to influence and shape change to allow inclusive, innovative approaches to customer engagement where data is used as a true force for good. We have collaborated with the University of Edinburgh and FinTech Scotland to create papers, events and roundtable sessions, and are working with a new partner, Ethical Intelligence, to highlight the worth of ethics and the role of data in creating fairer products, services and societies.

We’re also looking at how we achieve a diverse, inclusive workforce. Building on existing talent programmes, we launch our Democratisation of Talent initiative next month. Until teams engineering data solutions better represent the range of customers and societies they serve, we will never have truly inclusive, unbiased approaches.

Do you think what we understand by the value of data has been changed by the pandemic?

Trends data from the DMA’s Insight partner, Foresight Factory, shows consumers were increasingly viewing personal data as a valuable commodity to be traded and kept safe. However, in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19, swathes of personal information are being shared with third-party bodies, voluntarily or otherwise. This demonstrates data’s direct public value when used as a force for good.

Effective data sharing is reliant on public trust and people must be confident their data will be protected, respected and used confidentially. If so, many future citizens will accept the wider social benefits of making their data trails accessible to authorities, so altruistic data-sharing – ie, with little personal reward – could be a lasting feature of the crisis.

You describe the DMA as a “bridge-builder”. What does that mean?

Perhaps unusually for a trade association, we have a customer-first rather than industry-first approach. People are front and centre of all we do, from the DMA Code to which all corporate members comply, to our lobbying and work around diversity and inclusion. We focus on getting the best outcomes for customers and delivering intelligent marketing –responsible, creative, inclusive, sustainable. Our community comes together around those pillars to collaborate with academia, government, regulators and the public and private sectors.

Has taking an ethical approach to data gained more traction?

The single biggest reason a person will share their data is trust. Brands and organisations are waking up to the importance of building trust by taking more ethical approaches. The DMA Code underpins a responsible approach to using data. Under the principle “Put your customer first”, it promotes the evolution of marketing as an exchange of value between businesses looking to prosper, and customers looking to benefit.

This year has highlighted the importance of trust and transparency. Scepticism around how personal data would be used for track and trace systems has been a barrier, with many people feeling they were making a choice between health or privacy.

Have we seen more transparency in data use in 2020?

I’d like to think movements such as Black Lives Matter have made us look more carefully at how decisions are made with data, and perhaps more importantly, who is making those decisions. More transparency around processes and people, particularly in AI, will help identify and remove bias to create a fairer, more inclusive approach.