If you’re a web analyst or a data scientist, developer, or otherwise deeply involved with web analytics, you should strongly consider pledging to the Code of Ethics.

This Code of Ethics is a social compact.

Choices were made in authoring this code. Among the biggest challenges Lovett and Peterson had in steering this through a large group of people was balancing several of them – between specificity and generalization, one set of values and another set of values, and fending off the natural tendency of analysts to enumerate 55,000 technologies and their appropriate uses.

It’s something that is relatively easy to internalize and has a timeless quality. Anything that is worth pledging has to stand for something. It doesn’t bind your company to anything, unless, of course, you’re a consultant or the CEO of a company. In such instances, then yes, I would expect a company to behave ethically. Fine line is fine.

Normatively speaking, it contains good things. The five principles – privacy, transparency, control, education and accountability are solid in my view. It’s how I want to be treated by other Web Analysts who have access to the data that I generate as a consumer. I know many of the web analysts who ultimately see my behavior. I don’t know all of them. I want them to treat me well regardless. Just as many of them visit the websites that my team and I examine each month. I’m a consumer too.

There are sentences that some people may disagree with. I’d prefer that don’t pledge.

Multiple authors raised enforcement and compliance multiple times. And, in each meeting, I was among those who argued that any enforcement agency would have a significant cost associated with it. The best way forward would be social. Compliance would be social. I have very good reason to believe that this will work.

The analytics world is still small. You’ll run into most people over the course of a few years. Some of my colleagues have gone from being clients to suppliers, into competitors, and back to being clients in short order. Actions speak pretty loud, and so, if you know somebody isn’t behaving ethically, you can call them on it.

The door isn’t permanently shut to an enforcement agency. It’s just not envisioned. And the budget for staffing one is zero. The lack of an enforcement agency does not make the act of pledging meaningless. Though, I suppose, it is an incredibly convenient excuse not to pledge.

There are good reasons to pledge. There are reasons not to.

I have. You should too.

4 thoughts on “Pledging The Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics

  1. Chris,

    I am always thrilled when I see another Web Analyst even simply discussing the new WAA Code of Ethics. This is an early stage of the conversation about how Web Analysts need to carry themselves, thus it is just the beginning. Yet, it seems that most of us are already in alignment with responsible use of data.

    I am in agreement with you that pledging to this Code of Ethics is a social compact and that enforcement of the principles found within will be hard. However, if enough of us agree to agree I imagine that peer pressure will suffice as a tool for enforcing “the rules”.

    Good post.

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