Ethics

The need for ethics in growth platforms

No matter how many business ethics courses you take, or lectures you follow, the definition of ethical business practices will often come down to you. For the very simple reason that the typical definition of ethical practices has been reduced to legally allowed business practices.

TL;DR

No TL;DR today.

Ethics. A topic that should be quite plain and simple, yet often finds itself in shades of gray.

No matter how many business ethics courses you take, or lectures you follow, the definition of ethical business practices will often come down to you. For the very simple reason that the typical definition of ethical practices has been reduced to ‘legally allowed business practices’.

When I thought of writing this article, I did a quick Google search on what business ethics means, and this is what Google threw back at me.

Business ethics is the study of appropriate business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial subjects including corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility, and fiduciary responsibilities.

Appropriate business policies and practices.

Everything after that is more or less covered under one civil and criminal law or another. So, often when you see businesses deciding what is ethical behavior and what isn’t, they are mostly trying to see if what they are planning on doing is legal or not. And if it happens to be leaning towards ‘not’, there are overpriced business associates tasked with the sheer purpose of finding it ways to make it less controversial. Essentially, give it a shade of gray.

Now, is that illegal. Of course not. If it were, those associates would not be paid handsomely for doing that. Is it ethical? Now that is a question only you can answer.

And that is why I mentioned that the definition of ethical business practices will often come down to you. If you want me to help you with it, it’s quite simple.

Whatever you are thinking of doing, if it is something that would make you cringe, you shouldn’t do it.

That’s it. Don’t try finding loopholes. Don’t try figuring out ways to make it more legal. Just don’t do it. If it is something you wouldn’t want someone else doing to you, don’t do it to others yourself.

Why are we talking about it today?

Because this is a debate that started the very first day I decided to start working on Benne. When I would describe to someone what I was planning to do, all discussions would eventually lead to CDP - or a customer data platform. And, while there is (probably) nothing wrong with an anonymised data platform, the way I have seen typical CDPs work is something I am just not comfortable with.

I have come across platforms that boast that they would be able to tell you when a particular customer of yours is about to churn out - right down to offering the customer’s complete info, usage pattern and - in some cases - a detailed bathroom schedule. And that. How can anyone be comfortable with that?

Through Benne, I want to be able to help more and more businesses achieve growth. Businesses of all shapes and sizes. And this growth will be fuelled by data. But I believe, and I know that you can do that without peeking over your customers’ shoulders all the time. Instead of trying to isolate behavior of your individual customers, isolate the behavior and contribution of your individual assets.

Identify the well performing assets, analyze the factors contributing to their growth, and use that analysis to help you create a portfolio of well performing assets.

Nowhere in there did I feel the need to mention my consumers even once, did I?

Now, of course the performance of these assets is evaluated based on how my consumers are interacting with them, but if my focus is on analysing the performance of my assets and not the behavior of my consumers, then the way my data would be structured and analysed would not need to tag my individual customers in any way, shape or form.

Growth can be achieved while respecting the privacy of your customers, and that is exactly what we are here to do for you.

Just look at Google Analytics, for example. Is it an amazing tool? Sure. It completely redefined web analytics for millions of businesses worldwide, and the most notable part of it has always been the part that it is completely free - if you are a small business or individual. But why is it free though? Altrusim? Not really. It is a data mining and ingestion pipeline for Google’s ad algorithms. When you are using Google’s analytics scripts, you are essentially letting Google have access to each and every single customer and potential customer of yours. And while your understanding of what the customer does ends when the customer leaves your website, Google’s doesn’t. It tagged your customer like a tagged animal in the wild and all that information is being leveraged by its ad platform.

Even you are being tagged, monitored and evaluated. All the time. Not a good feeling now, is it?

Now, the moment you talk about it, Google would be quick to point out that it offers customers the right and option of opting out of being tracked. And indeed it does. Remember the overpaid associates and loopholes we talked about earlier. Smells quite similar to what we were discussing back then, doesn’t it?

If there was a genuine argument behind giving the option to be left alone, why not disable it by default, and let me (and others customers like me) decide if they want to enable it or not. After all, as Google says, this helps them show me the most personalized ads. The ones I would be interested in, and would want to see.

Or, even forget even disabling it by default. Why not give the option of disabling this to the businesses who are putting your scrupts on their websites? That would certainly make things easier, won’t it? But no. THese ideas don’t even get a seat at the table.

Because it is not about respecting the customers’ privacy. It is about percentages, and doing the bare minimum. When you give the end users the option to disable the tracking, and make them perform a series of actions that would make it happen, and then combine it all with the fact that it is not a widely known fact, the results are unsurprising. A very very small percentage of users would even come to know of the existence of such an option. And an even lower percentage would actually go ahead and do it. In the end, Google lost on the tracking ability for such a small percentage of customers that it won’t even feel the difference.

Legal sure. Unethical? You decide.

Benne is a privacy first business growth platform, built on top of an extremely robust web analytics system - Matomo. Matomo is used by over a million websites all over the world - including United Nations, NASA and the EU Commission. So, we felt confident in both the stability and the capability of the system. However, we don’t use Matomo as is. We use Matomo’s core engines to feed 100% anonymised data to our business intelligence engine, which in turn is what you - our customers - are using when you use our product.

Ethics. It is important to us. It is ingrained in our product, and if you need legal reasons to use our product - just think Cambridge Analytica and all the controversies behind the customer tracking systems like Google Analytics and Facebook are engaged in. Whether you are thinking of making your business GDPR compliant, or want to shield it from the countless new regulations coming up all over the world, your business needs to use a product that would respect your customers’ privacy. Benne does that out of the box.

Check out the product, or if you have any questions, just send me a tweet.

That’s it for today.

Abhishek

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