Navigating digital ethics can be a minefield. However, below I have provided a few areas to keep in mind when looking at gathering, handling and using personal data as well as when communicating to consumers online.
The basic premise is to treat others how you would treat yourself; with honesty, fairness, respect and integrity.
Be honest. Be truthful
When engaging with others over the internet it’s important that you provide, to the best of your ability, truthful and accurate communications. This is because communicating without checking the truth of information, in the digital world we live, can easily be picked upon.
A record of untruthful claims can end up being highly dangerous for your organisation, tarnishing its trustworthy reputation and professionalism.
Don’t exploit digital labour
Before using another person’s work, obtain permission. Always attribute authorship of material and ideas to those who make an original and substantive contribution.
Don’t misuse free expertise and contests
When entering contests participants run the risk of divulging their time, effort and secrets with no reward. To use someone else’s work, without compensation, is considered to be exploitative and unethical.
Whatever the reward, it’s important not to abuse the source.
Don’t spam or harass
Derogatory and unsolicited messages are often viewed as unethical. Engaging in or promoting spamming and online bullying is something that should not be tolerated.
Don’t invade people’s privacy
Understandably data on consumers is an incredibly valuable resource. Gathered and utilised properly, data can provide a positive gain. It allows you to provide consumers with more personalised and targeted offers, and it reduces your brands waste on poorly targeted, ineffective advertising.
However, while gathering, handling and using this data it’s important not to violate an individual’s privacy. A key component of digital ethics, therefore, is to not infringe on the privacy of customers. Nor disclose or share personal information without permission from the individual.
Not abiding by this aspect of digital ethics, can not only scare consumers away and give your business a bad rapport, but can also land your business in serious legal troubles.
Don’t viciously attack competitors or those critiquing you
Whether in jest or not, personal attacks on competitors or individuals is often deemed unethical. Negative sentiment can quickly go viral without permitting fair rebuttals.
Convey your message without offending the audience
It’s always important to communicate inclusively. Always respect cultural variety, gender, race, age, sexuality, any disabilities and so on. Knowing your audience is a hugely important here. For example, many people within your target market might not like to be directly referred to as ‘poor’. This should aid what language your company uses. In this case, avoid the topic altogether or use a suitable synonym. So rather publishing a subject line, ‘days out for poor people’ use a less aggressive and personal subject line ‘Broke girls guide to London’.
Its basic customer service. But with the added difficulty of a digital wall where you can no longer read facial emotions and body language. Because of this, being cautious with your language is even more vital.
Digital ethics provides a framework of how to properly interact with consumers in the modern age. Overall we see that digital ethics is intertwined with a lot of the same rules we set ourselves in everyday life. At its core, this ethic is one of treating consumers and individuals with respect and how you would want to be treated.
You need digital ethics not only in the moral sense but as they are better for your business and can help you avoid any tricky legal situations.
If in doubt on how to react, think how you would respond face-to-face.