Ethical Concerns of AI in Marketing
Artificial intelligence (AI) has gone a long way toward changing people’s lives, influencing everything from voice recognition to the potential for self-driving cars. In particular, it has become especially prevalent in marketing, making it simpler and more effective than ever to use data for targeted advertisements and to create robust profiles of customers and influence consumer behavior.
However, with the rise of artificial intelligence in marketing comes a variety of associated ethical risks. Marketers have an ethical responsibility when it comes to the use of AI to ensure that consumer data is used safely and effectively. Marketers must also be aware of the potential for bias present in supposedly impartial artificial intelligence. Ultimately, engineers and marketers must take steps to ensure the responsible use of artificial intelligence, including respecting consumer privacy, ensuring the accuracy of data, and preventing algorithmic bias.
Privacy and Data Sharing
In order for a business to maintain its good reputation, consumers must expect marketers to protect their data. If their data is used for something other than what they expect, that trust may be broken and ethical boundaries may be crossed.
Examples of unethical use of data can include the use of targeted advertisements that may further harm vulnerable consumers. For example, if a consumer has a gambling addiction, using information gathered from personal data to market gambling-related products to them would be unethical. While targeted advertisements can be convenient for both businesses and consumers, marketers should make sure that they are not exploitative or harmful.
Legislation Concerning Data Protection
Recent legislation has focused on protecting consumer data from unethical use, so that unethical use of data can now land businesses in legal trouble. This can create new demand for attorneys who protect consumer rights, privacy, and other areas of business law.
The California Consumer Privacy Act, enacted in 2018, created new consumer rights when it comes to personal data. These include rules governing the right to access, delete, and share personal information collected by businesses. Illinois recently passed the Genetic Information Privacy Act, which prohibits employers from hiring, firing, or retaliating against employees on the basis of genetic information. In a similar vein, Vermont passed the Protection of Personal Information Statute, which mandates that certain personal information must be kept confidential and secure under Vermont law.
All of this legislation serves the purpose of protecting consumer data against corporate overreach. As artificial intelligence continues to become more prevalent, there may arise additional legislation related to consumer privacy, data collection, and algorithmic bias.
Reinforcing Bias and Prejudice
In some cases, ethicists worry that artificial intelligence could reinforce social and racial biases. While AI itself is often touted as being impartial and unbiased, the algorithms behind artificial intelligence are created by real people. In this way, algorithms can be programmed with biases. AI programs can also teach themselves what is preferable by absorbing biases from other sources. In particular, AI can be taught racial and gender biases, such as not recognizing people of color or transgender people.
Bias in artificial intelligence can affect everything from the important to the mundane. In a recent example, for instance, motion-activated soap dispensers were less likely to recognize the hands of people of color than the hands of white people. Machine bias can also have more significant, potentially life-altering implications, such as racial bias in risk assessments for criminals.
Fake Media and Disinformation
Artificial intelligence can also encourage the spread of fake news on social media. AI systems could learn how to produce fake content, which could be harmful to both businesses and computers. In particular, automated social media accounts and bots can work to spread disinformation. Bots can also engage in hate speech and harassment, and sow discord in particular groups or organizations. Automated social media accounts and bots are becoming more prevalent than ever, and can convincingly mimic human behavior online.
In many cases, consumers don’t understand how artificial intelligence works, what their data is used for, or if they even have the choice to share their data or not. Transparency in marketing is quickly becoming a priority for consumers when it comes to personal data. In order to build customer trust and avoid costly damage to their reputations, businesses should implement best practices when it comes to consumer data and marketing. This includes eliminating the use of third-party data, and implementing new practices that allow customers to choose which pieces of data to share.
Businesses can also solicit and implement customer feedback when it comes to the use of data in digital marketing. Customers may be willing to supply a certain amount of data in order to reap the many benefits of artificial intelligence. However, they may be warier of disclosing extensive personal information such as their mental and physical health, physical location, or social behavior. Businesses can use customer feedback in order to implement a level of data collection that allows them to provide helpful recommendations, without crossing the line into a violation of privacy.
The Future of AI in Marketing
Despite the risks associated with it, artificial intelligence is here to stay, and it is sure to continue to shape marketing in the future. There are many benefits associated with AI when it comes to marketing, including improved product and content recommendations, better social engagement, better customer service, and improved search. However, marketers should be sure to use AI wisely in order to avoid eroding consumer trust. This includes transparency when it comes to data collection and use, as well as implementing responsible marketing tactics.
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