Integrity by Design: Making the Right Choices Easy

Technology and the data it generates offer tremendous opportunities for making the world better. But how do we prevent the downside effects of misuse of data?

~ Written by Marlies van Steenbergen.

The balance between innovation and privacy in the health sector was the topic of a public debate I attended a few days ago. The debaters came from the health sector and from the creative industry. The debate provided no definitive answers, but what did come up was the importance of good design, based on the collaboration of all stakeholders involved, including the users.

The debate was led by Tijmen Schep, author of the book Design my privacy[1]. In this book, Schep presents eight principles for privacy design. Schep argues that designers have a responsibility that goes beyond what is legally allowed. His eighth principle says that technology is not neutral: in the design of technology applications, the designer always introduces constraints or options that direct the user in a particular direction. An app always contains the norms of the designer, implicitly or explicitly. Designers have a choice to design for privacy, or better still, for the good of the user. A similar thought was expressed by Sille Krukow at the ViNT symposium this week. As 90% of our behavior is automatic, the challenge is to design in such a way that the right decisions are the easy ones.[Watch Videos]

Over the last months, I got increasingly engaged in discussions about what is and what is not allowed with regard to data. Through the topic of process mining of customer journeys, I got interested in data analytics. Which rapidly led to dilemmas between what is possible and what is ethically sound. We need the innovation that new technology offers, but I think that we have a moral obligation to design integrity into our smart services and try to make the correct choices the easy ones. That is why in our research at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences into customer journey analysis we include the corporate integrity discipline, next to all data analytic skills. And why one of our goals is to design integrity into the analysis tools we aim to build.

I firmly believe that organizations should take an explicit ethical stand going beyond compliance with legal regulations. Not only because it is morally the right thing to do, which it is, but I think that in the long run it also makes sense from a commercial perspective. I am curious to know to what extent integrity by design is an issue in your organizations and how you deal with it. Is it possible to formulate general integrity design principles?

[1] Tijmen Schep, Design  my privacy – 8 principes voor beter privacy design. BIS Publishers, Amsterdam, 2016. ISBN 9789063694470.

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