The ICO (the UK data protection supervisory authority) has launched a survey to understand how companies are addressing the issue of the interplay between data protection and ethics.

This is not something new. Back in 2018, the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners was entitled: Debating Ethics: Dignity and Respect in a Data-Driven Life. In the closing speech, Giovanni Buttarelli (European Data Protection Supervisor) affirmed that Ethics is not, nor should it ever be, an alternative to the law. It is not a question of either ethics or the law. It is a question of both ethics and the law. Ethics should inspire respect towards all human beings which enables the law to be upheld in spirit as well as by the letter.

Ethics often takes the stage when it comes to the use of new technologies (such as AI, Big Data, IoT, etc.) because regardless of the technology, a common feature is that they're all live on data and they need it to function and improve. But the more data they need, the more sophisticated the technology gets and the risk of intrusion (and possible harm) to the privacy of individuals also gets higher.

There have been various interventions in the field of ethics starting from the Ethics Guidelines for a Trustworthy AI of the High Level of Expert of the EU Commission to a number of initiatives adopted by national governments and data protection authorities. The survey just launched by the ICO is highly relevant as it proves that ethics will play a key role in the new digital world and authorities are eager to understand how the market is equipping for this new challenge.