As the world reels, and Facebook’s share price plummets, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal, focus is narrowing in on who is to blame.

Have social media users given too much personal information to companies without really considering how that data will be used? Well, probably, but that ship has probably sailed.

What about Facebook? Why did it take Mark Zuckerburg four days to acknowledge that his organisation has a responsibility to protect its users’ data? Or should the blame land squarely on the shoulders of the political powerbrokers who harnessed the data to convince and coerce people into voting in their favour?

If you peel back a few layers to this voyeuristic, privacy-breaching, manipulative mess, you’ll realise that the most frightening issue is not that Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal data of 50 million people; it is how it was used.

Understanding what makes us tick offers opportunity to improve, shift and change behaviour. This opportunity is now readily accessible to brands, organisations and governments; as big data and behavioural science merge to uncover in-depth human insights.

But when these powerful human insights meet dark motives; the implications can be inhumane.

If we want to use social media platforms for free, it is not unreasonable to expect them to leverage our data to create income streams. But it is also not unreasonable to expect that this is done in an ethical and transparent way; the ‘social contract’ between users and companies should remain in-tact.

So why is there such a hunger for this data and human insight? Is it all driven by dark motives and commercial capitalism? Not necessarily.

As human beings, we are surrounded by exponentially-increasing influences and choices every waking moment of our day. For marketing and communications professionals, it is vital that we understand the way in which human beings make brand decisions to create true moments of connection with our customers.

What is also vital is that we define the rules of engagement; that we can identify the line between ‘nudging’ and manipulation.

The IMPACT Agency Behavioural Insights Model, developed in conjunction with Behavioural Economics expert Kris White, leverages behavioural science principles to uncover deep human insight that strategically and tactically informs how, what, when and where we communicate with target audiences.

In our development of this model, we identified that with great insight comes great opportunity, and great responsibility.

Our Code of Ethics outlines our organisation’s rules of engagement; what we believe and how we will behave; in our use and application of behavioural science in marketing communications.

We believe data and behavioural science can be powerful, positive tools for enhanced communication and greater cut-through in a noisy world. We will never use this insight to propagate misinformation, feed fear, manipulate, hurt, harm or hinder individuals’ health, wealth or freedom.

I call on my industry peers to collectively elevate ourselves above the dirty data science tactics by defining and committing to ethical behaviour; for a better culture, better outcomes, and a better world.