Artificial Intelligence for Good: The Ethical use of AI in Marketing

AI 2021 Jan 28, 2021

Over the last decade we have begun to see AI rise to prominence in a number of industries and it is now it is considered standard practice in many. Marketing professionals use AI to gain more insights on users which allows them to maximise the time and attention given to ads and social platforms . Since 2018 there has been a lot of discussion regarding ethical practices in the use of AI systems in marketing. This was brought to light when it was discovered that Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from 50 million Facebook profiles without consent, using this data in order to inform political campaigns and spread misinformation This scandal caused a snowball effect whereby people began to question how their data was collected and used.

The GDPR (Global Data Protection Regulation) was then set up to regulate ethical data collection and data management. These regulations particularly affected the marketing industry which had become reliant on big data collected by AI systems, this raises questions over how Artificial Intelligence marketing practices have now evolved in response.

Prior to the introduction of the GDPR marketers were collecting huge amounts of data from consumers without explicit consent, then using this to flood people with targeted ads and marketing emails, while providing no way of opting out. The GDPR put a stop to this through regulations with hefty fines in place for those who do not follow these regulations. Explicit consent is now required for consumer data to be collected, “opt out” systems are no longer considered adequate consent, consumers must now tick a box stating that they want their data to be collected and are given information stating exactly what their data will be used for.

Customers are now also able to  withdraw this consent at any point and have their data removed, this in particular led to many businesses changing their methods for data collection as a state of European Privacy report found that 90% of businesses believed it was too late to delete customer data and 60% didn’t have the systems in place to delete the data. However, with maximum penalty for non-compliance standing at €20 million, businesses have been forced to adapt.

While organisations have been forced to adopt new practices, these changes bring with them opportunities for organisations to build back trust with consumers, as previously 57% of people stated that they do not trust businesses to use the data responsibly. This also enables them to optimise their use of data, previously marketers were overwhelmed with large quantities of data that was difficult to utilise, as marketers now only receive data from those who explicitly give their consent, they receive a lower quantity of data, this in turn simplifies analysis by improving the visibility of the key growth and sales analytics.

This focus on higher quality data will improve marketers’ use of AI systems, an AI system is only as good as the quality of data that it is trained on. Therefore, training a model on high quality data allows the AI to provide accurate insights along with enabling data driven decision making.

Another benefit that businesses are likely to experience over time is the increase in consumer trust, that comes with the increased transparency over data collection and algorithmic based recommendation tools. The GDPR also states that consumers must be able to request information on why they were recommended specific products. This transparency should help reduce the inherent scepticism and distrust surrounding AI models and should pave the way for rebuilding the trust between marketers and consumer.

With AI technology constantly evolving, we are sure to see its presence in marketing increase through higher personalisation and relevancy of the adverts we see. The use of AI in marketing has no inherent immoral grounding, however for ethical use it is important that consumers are viewed as people rather than as a data collection opportunity. Within social media platforms it is important to treat people as consumers rather than products being sold to advertised. We look forward to seeing further regulations put in place to ensure that the benefits of AI are felt by both businesses and consumers.

Interested in learning more about the applications of AI in marketing? Listen to a podcast with Brainpool’s MD, Kasia Borowska:

Written by: Joe Duszynski Lewis

Brainpool AI

Brainpool is an artificial intelligence consultancy specialising in developing bespoke AI solutions for business.