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This cartoon is about “data ethics,” a term for when companies make an effort to review the ethical ramifications of their activities involving personal data. I generally applaud looking at ethics broadly because it avoids being unduly constrained in its focus by narrow conceptions of privacy.  But there often isn’t sufficient rigor in the analysis of data ethics.

Ultimately, companies are formed to make a profit. We must not forget their true nature. A tiger can snuggle with you like a kitten, but it is still a tiger. Corporations can act ethically, but their nature is to make profits. When profits conflict with ethics, it’s hard for companies to resist the pull of their nature. This is why regulation is a necessity.

We should reward companies for acting ethically. But just as with the snuggly tiger, we shouldn’t ever let our guard down.

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy and data security training. He also posts at his blog at LinkedIn, which has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum an annual event designed for seasoned professionals. 

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