How are your Digital Ethics doing?
Do you know how your algorithms work? Are you handling data in the right way? Do you manipulate or nudge your users digitally? These are three fundamental issues for all of us to consider if we want to create responsible and ethical digital design solutions. And now is more important than ever.
We are being bombarded with stories about how digital solutions are biased, manipulative, polarized, opaque, and unequal. Examples are plenty: Algorithms in US healthcare or Court System that favor white before black people. Facebooks’ illegal use of sensitive data for ads and people getting addicted to social Media (It is estimated that 5 to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction today).
Most recently, a new survey has been published which, among other things, shows that there is a large group of Danes who are decoupled from digital life and another large group who are easy victims of manipulation. 76% of Danes are seriously concerned about the impact of social media on our children and young people’s psyche.
I first wrote about the flipside of digitization in my 2020 tech predictions: In Tech we trust?
And we have come a long way since then. Today, most people would agree that AI and other technologies should be operated fairly, transparently, and with accountability. Data should be collected on a need-to basis and only with full consent and Social Media needs to take responsibility for the dopamine addiction — The big task ahead of us is to think about how this can be put into practice.
Denmark is leading the way
We are among the most digitized countries in the world, and we have a long and strong design tradition for putting people at the center when we design innovative solutions. It has also proven to be good business whether it is in the public or private sector and whether we are talking about urban tech, health tech or green tech solutions. But there´s still a very long way to go.
In September 2021 Denmark released the D-Seal: a new labeling program for IT-security and responsible use of data that is meant to drive digital accountability in companies. Transparency, trustworthy algorithms, and data ethics are all baked into the criteria for receiving the D-Seal.
The most interesting danish project helping companies to cope with Digital Ethics is the launch of the Digital Ethics Compass.
It is provided as a free-to-use Open Source Toolkit designed to help companies make the right decisions from a design ethical standpoint.
It consists of 5 basic principles and 22 relevant and provocative ethical questions for companies to discuss. And finally, there is a full workshop toolkit as well. In Charlie Tango, we were involved in the development and test process — using the toolbox together with actual companies, and the results were very inspiring.
Digital Ethics is doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking
This topic is so important. We need to remember that there are real people — designers, developers, programmers behind every development of algorithms, automation, data management, and the behavior we end up having on the web and with digital products.
Ethics is not a legal requirement. Ethics begins where the law ends. Ethics is all about asking yourself the question: Just because we can, should we?
I predict that more and more companies will be asking these questions in 2022. Not just because it’s the right thing to do but because there is business value to be created. And I predict that Denmark and Danish companies once again will be global front runners.
This ends my series of ten tech predictions for 2022. If you want to check out the other articles, you can find them on timfrankandersen.medium.com