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Data Ethics – The New Competitive Advantage

The book Data Ethics – The New Competitive Advantage published in 2016 by Gry Hasselbalch and Pernille Tranberg was one of the early books to describe not only the privacy implications of the commercial exploitation of big data, but the broader social and ethical implications. It pictured the emerging movement of the mid 2010s to take back control of our data from powerful big tech Silicon Valley actors.

It was the first book to use the term “data ethics”  and describe it in detail. Its crucial contribution was its constructive approach that sought out the alternative engineering and company practices and initiatives that were countering the established big tech surveillance and “tracking by default” practices.

The concept “data ethics as a competitive advantage” the authors created in support of this alternative technology and business movement and has inspired big and small companies as well as governments and policymakers to consider and assess the ethical implications of their data practices and in many cases change and redirect data practices.

The two authors Gry Hasselbalch and Pernille Tranberg are co-founders of the independent Thinkdotank (together with co-founder Birgitte Kofod Olsen) that was created while writing the book. Pernille and Gry first met in 2013 when researching the challenges to youth’s privacy on social media and creating crypto parties for children and their teachers. They decided to write the book to push for the development of an alternative digital data infrastructure and a new “ethically aware” discourse on big data innovation.

The book is available in English and Danish editions open access, or as kindle and ePub on Amazon and iBooks. It can also be ordered print on demand.

In the book you can among others read about:

  • What is “data ethics”?
  • Data ethics in practice
  • The rise of the privacy aware consumer
  • The global fight for standardisation
  • The data driven ‘tracking by default’ business model
  • Why privacy is important
  • The alternative ‘tech revolutionaries’
  • Privacy as innovation
  • The data ethical challenges of AI, drones and robots.
  • Data monopolies
  • The personal data trust movement
  • Data ethics as “the new green”.

It is supported by Internet Society (

From the book:

“Privacy by design to me means that we take the position of the privacy aware and concerned customer and we build a way for them to get what they want.”
Matas Petrikas, Vai Kai

”If a company’s concentration and use of data destroys competition, we will need to ensure a level playing field.”
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner

“Now we see the emergence of new companies that take privacy as a starting point.”
Erik Huizer, Internet Hall of Fame

”The only next step for businesses is to move from a liability and compliance mentality to a more ethical approach.”
Robin Wilton, Internet Society

“Investors are increasingly looking at both security breaches, but also consumer privacy with the scandals that have erupted around privacy and surveillance, as what they call in that business ’a material risk’.”
Rebecca MacKinnon, Ranking Digital Rights

Recommendations of the book:

“It is excellent and without exaggeration a must read for anyone who on a commercial or political level are dealing with big data ..” Review of the book, Økonomisk Ugebrev, Berlingske Business.

“Yet for all the sides of the many-faced big data coin that Tranberg and Hasselbalch were able to somehow so coherently fit into one work, their ultimate argument shines through: big data’s a big beast, and it needs a solid code of ethics to tame it.” IAPP

“Creepily relevant….I encourage every journalist working with societal topics, to take an interest in the subject. This book is a good place to start” Journalisten, Union of Journalists.

“The book shows a collosal understanding of the Internets development and status and the ethical dilemmas that follow… broad acquisition recommended” Review for Danish libraries acquistion of new books.

“It’s a great book, lots of inspiration, good cases and so relevant to the challenges we face today. I’ve used it for GDPR workshops and talks.” Tim Clements, Privacy Professional and GDPR advisor. „Data Ethics“ is straightforward with very good arguments, convincing research results and nice examples. And it’s very well written, so that reading is a pleasure. But the most important thing about it is its relevance” Dr. Tobias Knobloch, Projektleiter “Open Data & Privacy”, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung.


Hasselbalch, Gry; Tranberg, Pernille, (2016) Data Ethics. The New Competitive Advantage, Publishare, Copenhagen