Zoe Amar: Where was the charity response to the Facebook data scandal?

There were a distinct lack of charity voices present in the response to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year, digital expert Zoe Amar has said.

Speaking at the Charity Finance Group Annual Conference 2018, Amar said charity voices have been "absent from the table" in responding to digital trends and scandals affecting some of the technology platforms charities commonly use.

Amar added that one of the biggest digital trends of the year is artificial intelligence, but that she would "like us, as a sector, to think more about our role in that,” Amar said.

“Charity voices have been absent at the table and there’s so many issues surrounding the ethics of emerging technology that really bother me.

“Where was the charity response to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story? There was nothing," she said.

"There was a response from commercial advertisers, but very little from charities, yet the charity sector is very dependent on Facebook. Small charities really work their Facebook presence before establishing a website and so I really think we need to grapple with some of the ethics behind the technology we’re using and what role we want to play in that."

The digital expert noted that one of the biggest risks facing charities in an increasingly digital world is “just not doing anything at all”.

“I’m a great believer in just getting it all out on the table, […] and so the best way to start a project is to assess all of the elements that could potentially go wrong and look at how to mitigate against those.

“That really creates a much more open environment to have good conversations about [digital].”

Earlier this year, the Digital Skills Report, published by Zoe Amar, found 15 per cent of charities have been through digital transformation processes and embedded it, compared to 9 per cent last year.

However, the report also highlighted a growing number (58%) of charities see funding as their biggest obstacle, up from 52 per cent last year.

Furthermore, the report found there is a growing appetite for leaders to understand digital trends – 63 per cent of charities want their leaders to understand more.

“I don’t think digital success should just be the preserve of large, well-resourced organisations,” Amar said.

“I genuinely believe you should be able to be excellent and really confident, even if you’re a really small organisation. Everyone should have access to these tools and some clarity about how they can use them to make a difference.”

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