Big Data and Ethics
It is essential that PR professionals understand the impact of big data and ethics in communication practices. The evolution of the structure of the web is accelerating rapidly, which makes the process even more challenging.
Metadata and Artificial Intelligence
Metadata is revolutionary because it facilitates the process of recognizing and 'making sense' of content by automated systems. They classify and describe people, products and concepts using metadata rather than textual data, through an invisible computer code attached to each file. While for humans this information is invisible or incomprehensible, for Artificial Intelligence (AI) metadata is easily readable and useful.
All this allows users to go beyond the simple word matchingIn addition to the conceptual search. For example, a conceptual search for "companies that invest in green energy" could return data on companies that invest in solar, wind and other alternative energy sources - not just documents containing the specific search words. What's more, the more these algorithms learn, the better they will be at delivering relevant information.
With these increased semantic capabilities, today's web is empowering recommendation actions, tracking users' digital footprint and proactively providing relevant information. These recommendations are based on users' interests, determined by their previous searches, views, downloads, publications and purchases.
The Human Element
More and more often, web users will not have to find information - the relevant information goes "to you". When combined with technologies such as geolocation tracking and big data - vast repositories of captured and stored information - targeting will be easier. We will be able to send messages to people in specific places, at specific times, based on their specific interests. This has major financial and ethical implications for marketers and service providers.
With such capabilities evolving and expanding, PR professionals have to be aware of and respect the rights of social media users and be increasingly aware of their ethical dimension. The use of data and segmentation must not invade privacy. In addition, organizations must not misrepresent their intentions on social media platforms and must be transparent in their marketing and promotional activities. The boundaries are blurring and disappearing between online advertising, news and comments. New forms of content must be carefully considered and approached with thoughtful practices and appropriate codes of ethics.
Always remember that ethical communication is the foundation of professional public relations.