Facebook’s scandal forces marketers to examine their ethics

As Mark Zuckerberg testifies before congress, marketers are re-evaluating how they use consumer data and steps they can take to ensure privacy is respected while growing sales.

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It’s a strange time to be a data scientist.

News about Cambridge Analytica’s ‘problematic’ (some might prefer the term “morally bankrupt”) approach to data analysis has left consumers on Facebook feeling suspicious and defenseless. The community of social, behavioral and data scientists who work in marketing and communications have never looked more like the enemy.

It’s important to note that the firm’s alleged impact on electoral upsets such as the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and the Brexit vote might be exaggerated. When witnessing a complex and unexplained phenomenon, never trust a simple answer—especially when it’s got a sales angle.

Regardless of impact, the ends of unethical data collection do not justify the means. It’s more important than ever to talk about ethics in research, especially as it pertains to social media. We are all, collectively, creating a massive data set—one “like” or photo at a time. This data set has tremendous power for those who can find insights and opportunities in it.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

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