4 areas of martech with ethical concerns

By Steve Peterson February 15, 2023

"The Chaos Machine"

Max Fisher’s book, “The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World" focuses on how social media companies — inadvertently or not — have had a profound effect on global society.

Unintended consequences

Martech professionals don't mean to sow chaos in the world, but what we do can have unintended consequences. Here are four areas in marketing technology that require such consideration.

1. Targeting and segmentation

Understanding users is difficult and can present ethical concerns when segments are sloppily grouped together. Even when using personas, they’re not perfect. Also, messaging that's too familar can come across as "creepy."

2. Data collection

All marketers are data-hungry. They’ll take all the prospect data they can get. As they say, if a service is free, the user is likely the company’s product. Data privacy laws from around the world include ethical guidelines that define sensitive data and restrict its retention.

3. Conversion and engagement

Flashy, worldview-affirming, identity-reinforcing and argumentative content is far more engaging than calm, vetted and nuanced content. We martech practitioners should ask ourselves what content and engagement strategies we employ to drive sales, and if they promote well-being or diminish it.

4. Strategy changes

A social media or other tech platform’s strategy can change slowly or quickly. How much power have we collectively given social media and other tech companies? We’ve seen numerous times how the whim of a platform owner or Wall Street investors can affect the rest of us — both as individuals and organizations — for better and for worse.

‘Don’t be evil’

This is especially important as technologies like AI are growing in adoption and use cases. We need to keep our ethical eyes wide open.

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