Should companies take on ethical responsibility when they use new technologies? Should we be talking about a Corporate Technological Responsibility? (CTR)

With new possibilities come new and different challenges…

Companies are being bombarded with new digital possibilities and new technological trends such as chat bots, voice control, and smart home technology. These new technological innovation potentials are discussed in the management hallways across the country. With new possibilities come new and different challenges, and with these new technologies that can transform companies and their product portfolio come new considerations about the responsibility of the company. Maybe we should be talking about a Corporate Technological Responsibility?

Using new technologies leaves an ethical responsibility to the companies that are going to deal with potential risks and consequences. If a company creates a new solution based on data gathered from user interaction with a product — what can this potentially mean for their customers’ lives?

All companies can potentially find themselves in situations where data ends up in the wrong hands, as was the case with Facebook’s data breach. Which consequences can surveillance and gathering of a customer’s interaction with a product have, and how can you ensure that the data gathering as a starting point both has a positive impact on their customer’s life and on society.

“People” by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

Corporate Technological Responsibility covers that the companies that drive technological innovation and use technologies to engage and service their customers have a responsibility to do it in a way that creates a positive impact.

Corporate Technological Responsibility is a fusion of ethical considerations on both the individual and societal levels. It is a recognition that technological change has the potential to realize dystopian futures. This is exactly why it is so important that we do not focus narrowly on technological possibilities, but also take ethical consequences into consideration.

Do we discuss the ethical dilemmas posed by technological possibilities enough? For years, companies have been used to dealing with ethical dilemmas in relation to e.g. the environment. Here we see many companies with ambitious goals for their environmental strategy. This can inspire us in our approach to new technologies — a new mindset that raises companies’ awareness of possible consequences of technologies.

The questions below can be asked during the initial phase of a digitization project as an evaluation of whether a solution has a positive or negative effect on its users.

1. Time and value

Does the solution contribute with time saving, greater experienced meaning and in general more joy in daily life for its users? Technologies that create value enrich our lives with unforeseen new possibilities and advantages. Combined, these factors improve our life quality. Does your project help people save time, become more effective and experience a better quality of life.

2. Health and privacy

Technology has undoubtedly heightened our health standards, but it can also be a threat to our health. Privacy is a conflicting term in the development of digital projects where our openness and engagement with others in the digital space pose challenges. None the less, the fundamental right to be in control of your private life needs to be maintained. Does your project maintain or create better health standards, and does it maintain a possibility for privacy?

3. Trust

Technology that contributes with effectiveness, better health and general value achieves nothing, if the users do not trust it. The feeling of trust in technology depends on many factors such as social relations, knowledge, understanding and previous experiences. Will people trust your technology?