CIO Connect – Digital Ethics

CIO Connect is an informal national online forum to enable us to have face-to-face conversations in real time and is based on leveraging your trusted network of CIOCAN peers where you can openly and confidently talk about issues that you are facing and also the solutions and innovations that can be shared with all of us. It is different than other sessions as no one is trying to sell you anything and everyone is focused on creating a valuable experience worthy of your time investment.

As these sessions are virtual round tables, the resulting discussions are informal and unstructured. The topics that are suggested are general guidelines. We seek to have active participation from all attendees. The volunteer Moderators record some high level notes of the themes discussed, but at all times protect the privacy of the members by not attributing actual quotes to any of the participants. In addition, these sessions are not recorded.

The most recent CIO Connect session was held on March 18th and focused on the theme of Digital Ethics:  Doing the right things, right. What does that mean for CIOs and what are you doing to ensure that your digital initiatives stay aligned with those ethical objectives? What are the evolving best practices and conversely what are the lessons learned worth sharing with your peers?

Discussion Summary:

Digital ethics comprise the systems of values and moral principles for the conduct of electronic transactions among people, business and things.  In today’s age of Digital Transformation, there are opportunities, risks, and ethical consequences of digital technologies such as Data & Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous technologies and Internet of Things.  Where do we cross the line between adding value and being unethical.

The following are the main points and questions that were raised during the resulting discussions.  It was noted in the discussions that there are still many unanswered questions, and that many of the ethical issues are tied to unintended or unanticipated consequences vs intentional choices.  However, there is value in raising the questions, and CIOs are well positioned to initiate and elevate these conversations about this important topic.

Impacts on Privacy and Freedom:

  • There is legislation around the storage and use of personal data.  However, the legislation about the use of insights drawn around the data is grey.  How far can we go?
  • With remote work, there is data around employee logins/logouts. GPS can track travel patterns for mobile workers. There are technologies for video surveillance and analytics. IT leaders are being asked to provide this data to manage performance.  This is not an IT issue, nor should IT be in a position to do this monitoring or policing.
  • While IT is responsible for securing the data and for the internal infrastructure, there should be corporate governance around the rules for who can read, draw insights and take action on the insights.

Use of Technology and Assessment of New Technology:

  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  • Is there an ethical or unethical use of AI? Should AI have a built-in conscience or at a minimum, checks and balances?
  • As a technology leader and office of your company, what actions are you obligated to take?
  • CIOs are well positioned to act as the Subject Matter Expert, to partner with the Privacy Officer, and influence business, operations and risk management processes related to digital ethics.

Corporate Culture:

  • Need to define what constitutes digital ethics and clarify and communicate across the company.
  • Ethics need to be embedded in the company’s core values.
  • Conversations need to cover all parts of the company.
  • Culture can’t be in silos; it needs to come together and be consistent across the enterprise.

Other Points:

  • Managing ethics is a management responsibility, however breach of ethics impacts shareholder value and becomes a Board elevated issue.
  • How do we avoid systemic bias when analyzing data?
    • Need to recognize that it exists.
    • Build in controls.
    • Create ethical reviews into the evaluation of new technologies.
    • Create standards and questionnaires for Data Scientists to address bias.

At the conclusion of the session a poll was taking regarding the members’ experience with the session. The feedback was once again overwhelmingly positive with 90% of the participants rating the session as “worth my time and would recommend it to my peers”.

We encourage all members to participate in these monthly CIO Connect sessions. If you have a specific topic in mind that you would like to be the focus of a future session, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know. Our next session is scheduled for May 18th. Hope to see you there.

Host: Gary Davenport

Moderators: Kyoko Kobayashi and Steve Heck