Digital disruption: navigating the legal and ethical risks

Data-driven digital disruption poses a significant challenge for many industries. Adaptation isn't always easy, but it is necessary, and professionals with expertise in data management and associated legal risks have a key role to play.

Navigating the legal and ethical risks of digital disruption

There are few sectors today that haven’t been impacted by the widespread adoption of digital technologies. According to the Gartner 2019 CIO Survey, adoption of AI has tripled in the last year alone. While most of the changes have brought many benefits, employers are having to embrace radical restructuring to adapt to this new environment.

As the legal and ethical implications of these changes are yet to be fully understood, employers need to move fast to ensure their policies and processes evolve as each new technology emerges. There is an increasing need for training and education on these topics, and insightful courses such as the Graduate Certificate in Investigations and Intelligence have been designed to meet this demand.

In this era of chatbots, robotic medical devices and smart contracts, both the private and public sectors need professionals who possess a sound understanding of the legal and ethical risks associated with new technologies and digital data management. In particular, employees must have the skills to manage issues around privacy, security and the ownership and accessibility of information.

Keeping pace with an evolving legal landscape

As technology evolves, legislation is evolving with it. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) highlighted the need to build awareness of the changing responsibilities and regulatory obligations among diverse groups of employees. This change in regulation is global – affecting not only businesses operating in Europe, but also those based in Australia who have European customers or clients.

The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) estimated that more than 75,000 data protection officers will be needed around the world in response to the GDPR. This year, the IAPP has estimated that half a million organisations have registered data protection officers across private and public organisations.

Associate Professor Allan Chay, Director, Postgraduate Programs, School of Law at Queensland University of Technology, says it is critical for businesses and their employees to adapt to these changes in data collection and privacy:

“Workers at all levels in public and private enterprises need to be aware of the legal and ethical risks of working with personal data and with other people’s intellectual property. As our capacity to collect data from clients, customers and others increases, so does the risks and responsibilities associated with this.”

The range of professionals now requiring an understanding of the legal and ethical risks of digital disruption span legal, management, compliance, communications and product and systems development roles. Today’s businesses must use data in their daily operations to be successful in an increasingly competitive environment, from targeting relevant audiences with marketing messages to developing products that meet customer’s expectations of twenty-first century connectivity.

Legal professionals also have an integral role to play. The law must be re-interpreted and new precedents established to respond to the proliferation of emerging technologies.

For communications professionals accessing detailed insights about their audiences and connecting with them through social media, data protection and ownership of user-generated content are front of mind. In the public health sector, patient privacy is a primary concern as key issues such as opting out of My Health Record are debated.

How to think like a lawyer

The legal and ethical risks of data-driven digital disruption, as well as its potential wider impact, is a growing source of anxiety for managers. The recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal highlights all too well the financial and reputational ramifications of falling foul of the law.

On the flip side, emerging technologies and digital data are enabling companies to interact with, and understand, their customers like never before – which is why possessing a foundational understanding of the legal issues associated with digital technologies is fast becoming a highly valued attribute.

Armed with this knowledge, managers can collaborate productively with both internal and external stakeholders to produce effective risk mitigation strategies, and capitalise on the opportunities that new technologies afford.

Upskilling to embrace progress

As digital technologies become ubiquitous, many professionals and managers need to be aware of the myriad factors at play to ensure they are operating within the law. The Graduate Certificate in Data and New Technology Law is a bold and unique course; a future-focused postgraduate qualification to prepare professionals for the new digital world order.


Stay on the front foot in the face of data-driven digital disruption. Enrol in the fully-online Postgraduate Justice Courses today.

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