'Ethical' data use mark launches

The Market Research Society (MRS) has spearheaded the development of a “fair data” standard that will be awarded to companies judged to handle consumers’ personal data in an “ethical” way.

fair data

Brands and non-MRS member data organisations seeking to carry the fair data logo will be asked to demonstrate they meet 10 criteria (see box). MRS members signed up to its code of conduct will automatically be awarded use of the logo.

The initiative, which launches today (28 January) on data privacy day – an annual online industry developed day designed to promote internet security – comes amid rising concern among consumers over the use of data. MRS says 58 per cent of enquiries to its Codeline advisory service last year were from people concerned over data collection methods.

Marketers’ use of personal data has also come under scrutiny by the European Commission, which has proposed new data protection laws that would restrict data use.

Fair data is backed by the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham who says in a statement those companies carrying the logo will demonstrate a “visible commitment to standards in the handling of the personal data of others”.

However, only two consumer facing brands – GSK and Lil-lets – are among the eight launch partners.

MRS CEO Jane Frost told Marketing Week it has had expressions of interest from “several other” companies. It is also in talks with trade associations including the Advertising Association and ISBA about ways to encourage their members to sign up and offer in-kind marketing support to raise awareness among consumers.

Frost adds she wants the Fair Data logo to be as recognisable as the Fair Trade logo.


The pledges brands wishing to carry the Fair Data logo have to make

  • We will ensure that all personal data is collected with customers’ consent.
  • We will not use personal data for any purpose other than that for which consent was given, respecting customers’ wishes about the use of their data.
  • We will make sure customers have access to their personal data we hold, and that we tell them how we use it.
  • We will protect personal data and keep it secure and confidential.
  • We will ensure staff understand that personal data is just that – personal – and ensure that it is treated with respect
  • We will ensure that the vulnerable and under-age are properly protected by the processes we use for data collection.
  • We will manage our data supply chain to the same ethical standards we expect from other suppliers.
  • We will ensure that ethical best practice in personal data is integral to our procurement process.
  • We will ensure that all staff who have access to personal data are properly trained in its use.
  • We will not use personal data if there is uncertainty as to whether the Fair Data Principles have been applied.

Readers' comments (2)

  • There are no legal penalties for violations, thus it has no power. Nothing stops a spammer from displaying this (and no, they don't have any ethics.)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • They say a picture paints a thousand words, but will this new mark of ethical authenticity resonate amongst companies realising the true potential of the insight they hold on their consumers?

    Particularly in light of the announcement that EE and O2 would be looking to sell off its customer data to third parties, and the relative lack of success by the Government's Midata initiative, it will be interesting to see how many brands actually engage with the scheme. If no brands sign up, then the mark could be nothing but another exercise in futility.

    Ultimately, brands need to put in place a value exchange-led strategy, where any insight gained from the consumer is exchanged for a reward or improved overarching experience.

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