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University Guest Lecture: Data Ethics in Marketing

Back in 2007 my typical Friday morning would have been spent:

  • Dragging myself out of bed after an unnecessarily big student night at Vodbull/Oceana/Gatecrasher

  • Frantically shoving my cripplingly heavy HP laptop into my backpack

  • Scrambling across campus to get to an 11am lecture (while cursing the lecturer for making me get up SO early to learn SO early in the day)


13 and a bit years later the tables fully turned, with the University of Birmingham kindly inviting me back virtually last month to host a guest lecture to their Marketing MSc students on ‘Data Ethics in Marketing’.


Although the 2021 student’s bed is a lot closer to their lecture venue given the virtual constraints of the pandemic, I still like to think they were cursing me for starting at 11am.

Despite being restricted to online learning for the majority of their studies (which is a travesty in so many ways), the students had some excellent opinions and posed some really interesting questions that made me excited and confident that the next wave of marketers have data ethics at the forefront of their minds.


Here are some of the stuff we discussed:


1. Technology

Data ethics isn't new, it has been a topic of interest for marketers for decades

Read about this 1990 example of the Lotus Corporation and Equifax teaming up to create Lotus Marketplace, a purchasable CD-ROM (remember those?!) that contained the names, addresses, income ranges and more about 120m+ Americans.


Tech giants such as Google and Apple are adapting their technological approaches to data ethics as we speak

Listen to this insightful podcast from Mobile Dev Memo about Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy and what it means for data ethics across mobile devices and mobile advertising.


It's not just western tech companies that are affected by the evolution of data ethics, tech giants in China have also come under pressure

Read this report about a government-backed Chinese consumer group who've accused tech companies in China of using algorithmic pricing (showing different prices of products to consumers based on the information known about them).

2. Knowledge

Consumer concerns over data privacy in Marketing are rising across the world

Look at this research from America (PEW Research Centre) showing that over 80% of Americans said the potential risks of data collection outweigh any potential benefit and China showing the similarities in consumer attitudes.


Covid-19 has accelerated digital usage and data knowledge within the average household

Look at this EY study from the UK showing the increase in digital ‘activity’ in the household as a result of the pandemic has increased concerns about data security.


Consumer knowledge over the value of their data has accelerated the use of platforms where consumers can ‘sell’ their data to brands

Check out Datacoup, one of many available platforms that empowers consumers to manage and trade their data.

3. Regulation

GDPR has kick-started a wave of similar data regulations across the world

Look at this list of countries who are either releasing or have released their own data privacy laws that are similar to GDPR.


The previous east vs west debate on attitudes to data privacy is changing

Read about China’s GDPR-style regulation, Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL), which is changing the perception of China as a country where data ethic tolerance is lower than in the west.


Brands are beginning to create their own data regulations and manage ongoing data governance themselves

Check out this starter-for-ten list of guideline principles of managing data regulation globally, although there are definitely more than 10!

What are your thoughts on the future of data ethics? Has Covid-19 changed your personal and/or business outlook to data ethics?

Comment below :)