Magazine article Business Credit

Ethics and Tech: A Marriage Made in Heaven, or a Divorce Doomed in Cyberspace?

Magazine article Business Credit

Ethics and Tech: A Marriage Made in Heaven, or a Divorce Doomed in Cyberspace?

Article excerpt

They're all over the news, and they're arriving faster than you think. Some you've heard of; some you haven't. But they will impact our lives one way or another, and sooner rather than later.

On the horizon are technological innovations that will disrupt how we do business. It's a smorgasbord of words: internet of things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain. There is a speed not only to information but also to adoption of technology. The question is, can our ethics keep up with rapid change? How can the credit professional avoid ethical pitfalls when using technology, or prevent being its victim?

"Within the next 20 years, well see a dramatic adoption of these innovations," said Luis Noriega, CICP, ICCE, senior vice president of global banking at Wells Fargo. If companies can't adopt these new technologies, they will be left behind, he said. This will be "not dissimilar to our move from an agrarian to an industrial economy." And these technologies will be everywhere ... hardly noticeable, but ever-present. "It will be just like electricity," he said.

Social Media: Loose Lips Sink Ships

The ubiquity of social media presents a common problem in which the credit professional might lose sight of ethical concerns. Credit professionals pledge to not maliciously injure the reputations of others and conduct their duties within the constraints of the law. They also are bound to guarding and securing information obtained for the purpose of extending commercial credit. NACM's Canons of Business Credit Ethics include, for example, the promise to exercise due diligence to prevent unlawful or improper disclosure of information to third parties.

Today, the wrong information can be accessible to anyone, instantaneously. Linkedln, Facebook and Twitter are just some of the more familiar platforms, and chat-based systems such as Slack, Yammer and Facebook's Workplace are seeing increased use within companies.

Disclosing confidential information on social media without getting the client's consent first is just one danger noted by Nancy Rapoport, Esq., special counsel to the president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It's easy to fire off a Tweet containing something only you and the client knows, she said. The real danger is in sending out discriminatory and disparaging comments about clients over social media. "Sometimes people forget that it's not just your friends who see these things," she said. Pretty soon, it can be spread by others. "It can just cascade."

There is no such thing as a secret once it comes out of your brain, Rapoport said. "Someone will find it. The internet is now that permanent record that we were warned about as kids. People shouldn't treat it lightly."

Using social media as part of a credit investigation to judge a company's creditworthiness is permissible, with a caveat. "Anything on the internet is fair game," Rapoport said, but what one can't do, she added, is perform a friend request on social media in order to get information that is only available when friending someone's account. This is known as pretexting, the gathering of information on a pretext.

It all comes down to how technology is used and whether its application is thought through beforehand. Rapoport strongly recommends that a company have a social media policy in place to address these issues of confidentiality and protection of reputation. In an education session on social media and technology at NACM's 120th Credit Congress & Expo in Las Vegas, Rapoport said: "Work with your HR people to develop appropriate social media policies. The reason why we have policies is so that we can help our colleagues do the right thing in a business environment." The policy can be specific as to the types of workers it covers; it can apply to everyone, or only to managers, contract workers, temporary workers, etc. The first step is to have a policy, she said, and next is to enforce what you have. …

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