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Brain circuits

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 Işık is Professor of Digital Strategy and Cybersecurity at IMD, where she leads the Cybersecurity Risk and Strategy program. She is an expert on digital resilience and the ways in which disruptive technologies challenge our society and organizations. Named on the Thinkers50 Radar 2022 list of up-and-coming global thought leaders, she helps businesses to tackle cybersecurity, data privacy, and digital ethics challenges, and enables CEOs and other executives to understand these issues.

Michael Wade - IMD Professor

Michael R. Wade

Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD

Michael R Wade holds the Cisco Chair in Digital Business Transformation and is Director of IMD’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation. He directs a number of open programs such as Leading Digital Business Transformation, Digital Transformation for Boards, Leading Digital Execution, and the Digital Transformation Sprint. He has written ten books, hundreds of articles, and hosts a popular management podcast. In 2021, he was inducted into the Swiss Digital Shapers Hall of Fame.


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