Why Fairness Is a Key Tenet of Data Stewardship


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We believe it’s time to adopt a data stewardship mindset when it comes to data collection, management, usage, and security. 

Data stewardship is an umbrella term that encompasses best practices concerning the collection, use, and confidentiality of personal information. We have a responsibility to those who shared the data to adopt an offensive strategy that protects them. 

There are five key tenets of data stewardship: lawfulness, fairness, transparency, relevancy, and security. We’re going to focus on the tenet of fairness here, but you can learn more about the other tenets of data stewardship here

The tenet of fairness dictates that our data policies and processes are fair to those who are sharing their data. But what does that look like? 

The importance of informed and freely given consent 

The terms of any offer should be clear and displayed up front so that your customers can decide for themselves. These terms should be displayed at the point of data collection. You can expand upon the details in your privacy policy, of course, but your users should have a clear idea of what they’re agreeing to without reading the fine print. 

Laws like GDPR and CCPA/CCPR call for informed and freely given consent. But even if your organization is not required to abide by these laws or similar regulations, informed and freely given consent is a best practice.  

Some companies rely on deceptive design practices known as dark patterns in order to make sales or convince customers to submit their personal information. This can look like trick questions, deceiving customers into giving personal information, misdirection, or shaming consumers into consent. 

Build trust with your customers 

Today’s consumers are increasingly wary of how their data is being used. In a 2021 Entrust survey, 64% of respondents stated that their concern or awareness about data privacy has increased over the past 12 months.

Unfortunately, most of us have fallen victim to deceptive design practices. Maybe it was a newsletter you never intended to sign up for or a free trial that became a paid subscription without notice or consent. These tactics may inflate a company’s vanity metrics, but they will ultimately damage its reputation and customer relationships—not to mention possibly put it in noncompliance with laws and regulations. 

Embracing the data stewardship mindset provides opportunities to build trust with your customers. Being clear and transparent about how you plan to use their data empowers your customers to make the right choice for them and shows that you have nothing to hide. 

Best practices for fairness in data stewardship  

How can your organization be fair to your customers in the spirit of data stewardship? Here are our best practices:

  • Make clear and conspicuous disclosures upfront at the point of data collection.
  • Refrain from practices that undermine consumers’ ability to provide informed consent. 
  • Require affirmative action to indicate consent, like checking a box. Consent by default—like a pre-checked box—is not adequate and explicitly forbidden under GDPR. 

At FormAssembly, data stewardship is a core part of our mission. Our data collection platform helps our customers be better stewards of the data entrusted to them by offering excellent security, compliance, and privacy standards. 

Data stewardship can build trust with your customers and protect your organization. Interested in learning more about data stewardship? Download our free whitepaper, Understanding the Importance of Data Stewardship.  

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