Sometimes it takes a billion-dollar mistake to bring the murkier side of data ethics into sharp focus.
Equifax found this out to their own cost in 2017 when they failed to protect the data of almost 150 million users globally. The catastrophic breach was bad enough on its own — but Equifax waited three months to go public with the news.
As the public furore rose to a crescendo, the credit organization dragged its feet on disclosing exactly what kind of information had been leaked. Instead, it directed customers towards a website to find out whether or not they’d been affected, and offered to waive their standard $10 credit freeze fee.
Equifax’s delayed reaction to the event was one thing. The lax $700M fine was another. But the sheer scale of the breach opened up a larger dialogue on the often precarious relationship between data, ethics, and corporate responsibility.
And in the years since the breach, public awareness in how organizations track, collect, store, and use data has only continued to grow. Data organizations have faced increasing public pressure and legal obligations to actively craft transparent, ethical policies around data.
Most recently, this debate has centered on the rising need for organizations to take ownership of their ethics in-house with the appointment of a Chief Ethics Officer. But is this emerging role the silver bullet for all organizations’ ethical data dilemmas moving forward?