IKEA Gives Users Big Promises on Privacy and Data Ethics

One of the main role models within the new data ethics era might end up being the Swedish multinational Ingka Group, the strategic partner to IKEA. The company presented its thoughts for the first time at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and thereafter released a Customer Data Promise. The first step was then taken in redesigning the digital IKEA experience through the lenses of data ethics.

Lea is a fictionous IKEA customer, who in the near future will understand what she is signing up to when she downloads and starts using the IKEA app, she will be in control of her own data, and she will benefit from sharing her data.

These are the three main points in IKEA’s new Customer Data Promise. Lea was also at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, where Barbara Martin Coppola, Chief Digital Officer at IKEA held a workshop with a selected group of privacy and ethic experts – including DataEthics.eu – to get feedback on Lea’s experience (see the video here on the new experience).

From April this year, IKEA customers in Sweden, the US, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain will get a new centralized data control panel in the app, where they can change and personalized their feed and understand their data settings, according to the company’s press release.

Barbara Martin Coppola, who has previously worked in the technology sector, and spent many years at Google, really knows about the ad tech industry and how it is dealing with personal data in an often unfair and undemocratic way, where the individual has no idea of what is going on.

Our privacy policy is a very long legal text today, says Barbara Martin Coppola

“Should companies continue to use other peoples’ data, as if it was their own? We have taken a stand that we will give back the control over their data to the customers,” she told us in Davos. “Our privacy policy today is following industry standard, and it’s not there. Users don’t understand what they sign on to. They don’t trust companies, and there is a lack of transparency. We will change this and put data ethics at the core of everything.”

With this IKEA sets it self apart from the mainstream in the retail industry. And yes IKEA might not have a lot to lose in terms of bottom-line revenue, because it is not an ad-driven business, as the Wall Street Journal points out, but it is still a super important step, because data ethics compromises a lot more than just making it clear to customers, what happens with their data and how they can chose to personalize their feed or not on their app. What IKEA has done, with the Customer Data Promise and the design of the app, is a first step towards re-thinking, re-designing and re-building everything through the lenses of data ethics. And data ethics is much more. For example it is also about where they store their data (ikea.se uses a provider in the US) , how they deal with third-party cookies (ikea.se is full of tracking cookies, who shares data with everybody), which tools they are using (the video is on YouTube), how they treat employee data and much much more (see data ethics principles here 4).

“Yes, this is a first step we are taking, but we are doing it and we have full support from top management,” says Vera Heitmann, Digital & Growth Leader in Public Affairs, who has identified seven areas the company now has to analyze and revamp to become a true data ethics role model.

As we say in DataEthics.eu: Nobody is perfect. Nobody is a 100%. Neither when we talk green companies. Everything is a process, and we applaud that IKEA dares to reveal the steps they are taking to deliver on data ethics.

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