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Ethical behavior in the era of the digital economy: what challenges does modernity give us?

Ethics - the basic attribute of a professional financier, often accountants are seen as the "conscience" of the company in which they work.

17.Dec.17 1:43 PM
By Daria Zaytseva


Ethical behavior in the era of the digital economy: what challenges does modernity give us?

What is ethical behavior? Are this the right thing to do or actions for which you are not ashamed? The society gives us certain principles "what is good, what is bad". This knowledge is passed to us by parents, something we learn from fairy tales and films, something comes with experience. All these rules work in a situation of certainty.

And what should you do in a situation in which you have never been before? You were not taught this situation, and there is no one to consult with. In the age of digital technology, the risk of getting into a situation in which we have never been, every day more and more. And we have nothing to rely on, except for intuition, only the sixth sense will tell us how to correctly and ethically behave.

Ethics - the basic attribute of a professional financier, often accountants are seen as the "conscience" of the company in which they work. To get an idea of ​​how financial experts themselves assess the issue of ethics in their profession, ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) conducted a large-scale study, interviewing 10,000 professionals and profile students from 158 countries. In addition, the study involved 510 representatives of top management, who regularly interact with accountants in their companies to get an idea of ​​how the financiers perceive.

It turned out that 83% of Russians are convinced that strong ethical principles and ethical behavior will be more in demand in the digital age, at the global level 89% agreed with this statement. The trend is understandable if we take into account the speed of change of the agenda. These changes occur due to developing technologies that penetrate into work, and in everyday life. Despite the fact that the technological level varies around the world, the main vector of all one - an increase in digitalization.

The Institute of Professional Accountants and Auditors of Russia (IPA of Russia) defines five basic principles, the observance of which allows accountants to be ethical in unfamiliar situations:
Professional competence and care;
Professional behavior.

But what are the unknown scenarios? What we have not imagined even ten years ago?

White hacking

Constant emerging news about cyberattacks is forcing companies to take special care of their cybersecurity. Increasingly, there is a need to refer to "white" or "ethical" hackers for professional help. Unlike black hackers, whose actions fall under Article 272 (Unauthorized access to computer information), 273 (Creation, use and distribution of malicious programs for computers), 274 (Violation of the rules for the operation of computers, computer systems or their networks) white hackers are not punished. If in the process of testing the security systems of a company, a hacker can find a gap, he gets access to private information that was not originally intended for other people's eyes. And here there is a danger of unintended dissemination of commercial information.

Imagine the situation: company A hires a specialist with extensive experience and suitable qualifications. Cooperation is successful: the hacker manages to find vulnerabilities in an important block with intellectual property ─ in electronic documentation relating to new products. He gives recommendations on eliminating weaknesses, and six months later it is discovered that a direct competitor has launched the promotion of an identical product that company A is still in development. Should I mention that the information about this product was in the block with the electronic documentation, access to which was received by the "ethical" hacker?

Such situations should be prevented. First, try to hide the confidential information from other people's eyes as much as possible. Secondly, take care of the patent for the product in advance. Thirdly, responsibly approach the choice of a specialist: "your" hacker must necessarily have a license to provide these services. On all possible channels, check his reputation: if a hacker was previously seen in unethical behavior, professional circles will know about it. And, of course, never work without a contract.

Protection of privacy on the Internet

Analytics is an effective tool that uses large data sets as a basis for observations and conclusions. The more information is available, the more accurate the forecast. That is why information about the client is so important, and many companies are ready to go to great lengths to take possession of it. Sometimes even cross the ethical line.

As an example, the following situation can be cited: Trade Center B establishes a tracker of visitors' steps through its territory. Guests enjoy free Wi-Fi (mechanically allowing their data to be processed on the launch page), and the marketers of the shopping center track their movements during shopping. The algorithm analyzes the behavior at each visit, so over time, information becomes enough to determine which stores are preferred by those or other buyers, how much time each takes to buy goods and much more. Marketers of the shopping center, cunning, take possession of this information and sell it to retailers so that they can subsequently send out targeted advertising to these visitors. The public is outraged and calls for a boycott of the shopping center until the treatment of the available information becomes more transparent.

This situation raises several questions at once: is it possible to obtain the necessary information? How to use it ethically? The difficulty lies in not understanding the rules of disclosure and use, and until such rules are standardized - such errors will exist.
With the advent of digital information, people do not yet understand that not all available data can be freely used. We must be sure that we act within our ethical principles and do not cross other people's borders. Despite the fact that there is so much information, the fundamental rules remain the same.

Bitcoin and money laundering

Cryptocurrencies are a relatively new invention, and their concept is not yet quite common for most people. Turnover of traditional currencies is regulated by government agencies to prevent money laundering. But the control tools of Bitcoin are less transparent - just because of the unusual nature of their format. The state system of turnover control of cryptocurrency is contrary to their idea, therefore supervision is carried out on the initiative of the sites that trade currency.

Perhaps the most interesting ethical dilemma of cryptocurrency is the conflict: use Bitcoin as a means of currency exchange or store savings in them? For those who are interested in money laundering, high volatility dictates the use of cryptocurrency as one of the stages of "whitewashing" of funds, and also makes bitcoin unattractive for saving money "for a rainy day" - people prefer traditional currencies for these purposes. With the increase in speculation, cryptocurrencies become even less stable. Money as technology relies on faith in future monetary exchange, so those who are involved in money laundering have their own influence on the paradoxical enhancement of the image of Bitcoin.

Running the turnover of Bitcoin in business should be a thoughtful initiative with certain steps. Bitcoin is quite a new invention, so it will not be superfluous to consult with experts on cryptocurrencies. If the introduction of the cryptocurrency falls under the jurisdiction of another state, the financial sector employees should carefully read its legislation. It is important not to lose vigilance and to prevent possible threats to reputation. With the charge of money laundering, transparent external communication should be the first step in minimizing the damage. The second stage is a pre-designed exit strategy.

Algorithmic solutions

Historically, the machines carried out programs written by a man. They were just an instrument devoid of independence. Now, however, developed and implemented complex machine learning based on pattern recognition and systems are increasingly able to make decisions without human intervention. The system analyzes huge amounts of information and, in its calculations, based on well-established patterns and trends to form a decision. This means that decisions are made not on one given template, but change over time and with the appearance of new information.

For example, Bank B switched to the use of machine-based decision making to calculate scammers. The system automatically remembers each transaction and notifies employees in case of suspicious activity of the client. The algorithm uses large amounts of information, including analyzing previous cases of fraud. And imagine: in the city where the Bs bank branches are located in the last week the use of stolen credit cards has sharply increased - a simple coincidence, however, the machine updates its algorithms and blocks 20% of transactions due to false suspicions. The situation occurs on the weekend, and with the blocking of funds faced by many customers. They are frustrated and frightened, client services do not have time to handle complaints, and social media are full of criticism and negativity. The deep problem of this situation is that automation occupies an ever increasing place in our lives. We get used to rely on artificial intelligence and trust it even in cases when it should not be done.

Financial experts faced a large-scale challenge of the present: to remain ethical in their actions and encourage other employees not to depart from professional principles. Etan Doyle, FCCA, believes that accountants and financial specialists should allocate 20% of the time to traditional tasks, and the remaining 80% - to develop strategic activities, for example, the introduction of business forecasting, new technological solutions and analytics. In addition, they must understand that new technologies can affect the company's reputation both positively and negatively, and closely monitor it.

We must learn quickly for successful adaptation to constantly changing conditions. Learn to remember information, learn to respond quickly to external changes, learn how to be flexible. Looking ahead, we can say that in the future we will need openness to everything new, because with the evolution of information technology risks will increase. But do not forget the basic principles of behavior and human interaction - and we can trust each other more.

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