Over recent years, trust in digital channels has been declining, fuelled by fake news, fraud, data misuse and privacy concerns. These issues directly threaten the digital advertising model and could suffocate future innovation. As a digital media lawyer, Jamie Barnard felt a strong sense of responsibility to address these challenges and reignite trust.
He was vexed by the consent paradox - the idea that by having more choice and control, individuals can no longer exercise it at all. He wanted to help people understand how brands use data so they felt safe and trust would return. Jamie believed this would come through transparency, but the complexity of the digital eco-system meant it was not an easy story to tell. Over time, he realised that ethics, rather than law, should be the guide.
Learning from the pioneers in the tech space, especially in the field of AI and machine learning, he developed his vision and rallied like-minded people to the cause. The tipping point came when Unilever’s leadership acknowledged the cultural and strategic importance of data ethics and gave Jamie the freedom to lead its internal and external advocacy.
Working with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), its transparency advisory board was rebranded as the WFA data ethics board and included experts from Diageo, Disney, LEGO, Mars, Mastercard, Procter and Gamble, Shell, and Unilever. It spent a year uncovering the perils of data and technology, explored the business case for data ethics and began to understand the impact ethical commitments could have on companies and people.
During the lockdown, Jamie spent three weeks writing “The rise of morality in technology” for the WFA - the world’s first guide on data ethics for brands. Its purpose was to encourage companies to adopt four fundamental principles for the ethical use of data - respect, fairness, accountability and transparency - and to champion data ethics as a cultural challenge. Published on the second anniversary of the implementation of the GDPR, it was shared with 60 national advertiser associations and WFA member brands representing 90% of global marketing spend.
In a decade that will be dominated by data, technology, AI and automation on a previously unknown scale, more tasks will be done by machines. Jamie believes demand will grow for those elements that make us human, such as judgement, creativity and cultural sensitivity. However, being human will not be easy and companies will face challenges to equip their employees with the skills and capabilities to make the right choices in the moment.
Embedding data ethics requires commitment, co-operation and responsible leadership from all sides of the marketing industry. Jamie hopes his paper will encourage everyone to come together as a global community and redraw the boundaries of data use for the next phase of the digital age.