The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has appointed its first “data ethics adviser”.   This coincides with the EU announcing it intends to ban the use of facial recognition technology in public for the next 5 years, and Google’s warning that the advance of Artificial Intelligence will have a big impact on humanity.   It seems it is time for an ethical overhaul, or at least an ethical pause for thought.

Data Ethics – what are they and who do they apply to ?

Data ethics look at the balance of the interests of society against the rights of individuals. The ICO reports that it is receiving more ethical questions, particularly regarding facial recognition technology.

Data ethics may be relevant to all data controllers and processors in the UK and EU.

What should I be doing to prepare my business?

Businesses should be alert to ethical issues when processing personal data, for example what would a customer reasonably expect to happen to their persona data, “is this processing fair?” or “What would data subjects think about the morality of this processing if they turned their minds to it?”.

The ICO outlines fairness, transparency and accountability as some of their key principles and businesses should adhere to these when using personal data.

Unethical data processing may lead to enforcement action and ultimately fines from the ICO, under the General Data Protection Regulation.

What happens next?

Going forward, we can expect the ICO to produce further guidance material on data ethics and we will be following this along with the EU and other business tech organisations.

How can we help you?

Please contact Rebecca Steer at for further guidance.