Code of ethics

The communication industry has not yet agreed on universally applicable ethical guidelines on how to deal with big data. However, this would be an important step in increasing the industry’s credibility, trust and legitimacy.That is why the Academic Society has drawn up ethical guidelines on the use of big data in strategic communication. These guidelines have been developed on the basis of research results and existing PR codes.


Key facts

  • The guidelines presented here are to be interpreted as proposals on how to deal with big data applications responsibly.

  • In companies and science, there is a huge need for a discussion on whether existing codes are sufficient for dealing with big data in strategic communication. This discussion should focus on the opportunities and risks for organizations and stakeholders.

  • Our goal is to define binding guidelines for the sector and in doing so reduce the pressure for communicators to legitimize the application of big data and gain the public’s trust.


  • Guidelines 1-4: These guidelines describe WHAT should to be communicated regarding big data applications. More transparency is needed as to how the data will be used.

  • Guidelines 5-10: These guidelines explain HOW big data applications should be communicated. This includes compliance with values, norms, laws, honesty, openness and truthfulness.

  • Guidelines 6-7: These two guidelines are of particular importance. Conscious or unconscious misguidance and discrimination should be avoided.


Recommendations to deal with big data

In the past, the public’s trust and acceptance of data-based communication have been lost because of a non-transparent handling of user data. The Vodafone Institute for Society and Communication carried out a representative survey of more than 8000 citizens in eight European countries on their opinions about the handling of their personal data.


  • The study showed that Europeans are skeptical about the big data phenomenon. Less than a third saw more personal advantages, more than half of respondents saw more personal disadvantages. In Germany, 62% saw personal disadvantages.

  • If companies want to exploit the full potential of data analysis in the long-term, they need to build trust. Trust is the basis for a stable and permanent interaction between citizens and institutions.

  • In order to increase trust, companies need to develop terms and conditions that are easy to understand, increase transparency, avoid small print, have individual privacy options, public user feedback and a popular and established brand.


From 2015 to 2017 a team at the University of Münster headed by Professor Ulrike Röttger and Dr. Christian Wiencierz explored the potentials, challenges and requirements for the use of big data in Corporate Communications.



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