The following piece is a guest post from Sheila Colclasure, Chief Data Ethics Officer and Public Policy Executive for Acxiom and LiveRamp. It originally appeared as an introduction to Data Privacy: What the Consumer Really Thinks, currently available for download.

For a deeper dive into the report, sign up for a July 18th webinar where Sheila will provide further insight on how consumers view the data-driven economy.

Now that technology has caught up with our imaginations and promises to exceed our wildest dreams, this moment-in-time represents a critical inflection point in our human journey. The technology we love – technology that serves and delights, that solves our problems and is of ever greater utility – creates data with every swipe, search and download. It also relies on data, about us, to work. How all of this data is used, for good or for bad, is our human question and challenge. We face decisions that can materially impact the future we are creating for ourselves, our children and our world.

This survey shows that people are increasingly aware of the role data plays in our lives and are becoming more conscious of the decisions they make in exchanging data for value. Collectively, we have come to understand that all data is an abstraction of a human, and that we must be accountable for how we collect the data that fuels business and governments and for how it should be used.

Applying an ethical construct to assess data-driven solutions is essential. This means deliberating between what you can technically do with data and what you should do with data. Establishing a common code of conduct and operationalizing data ethics is the only way to ensure that we can continue leveraging data to succeed in our respective marketplaces while establishing and strengthening the trust of the individuals we serve.

The Internet of Things is here. The companies that produce and interact with connected devices, from smart TVs, smart cars to smart medicine, need to be operationally equipped to ask the right questions at the right time. Operational readiness and applied data ethics must be built into the early stages of product development, all the way through to launch and beyond.

Our evolution should not and cannot stop with GDPR. Other upcoming regulations including ePrivacy Regulation, also in Europe, will continue to encourage debate and drive the process of data governance forward in a human-centered way.

Acxiom is proud to partner with the DMA today, as we have for almost fifty years. Together, we continue to work in partnership with each other, with the world’s largest brands and with consumers to settle on what’s fair, just and balanced.

I hope you enjoy reading this report. Please keep in mind that we are only at the beginning, not the end, and that the future is exciting and full of promise.