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Establishing a social licence for Financial Technology: Reflections on the role of the private sector in pursuing ethical data practices

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mhairi Aitken, Dr Ehsan Toreini, Peter Carmichael, Dr Kovila Coopamootoo, Professor Karen ElliottORCiD, Professor Aad van Moorsel



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Current attention directed at ethical dimensions of data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have led to increasing recognition of the need to secure and maintain public support for uses (and reuses) of people’s data. This is essential to establish a “Social Licence” for current and future practices. The notion of a “Social Licence” (SL) recognises that there can be meaningful differences between what is legally permissible and what is socially acceptable. Establishing a SL entails public engagement to build relationships of trust and ensure that practices align with public values. While the concept of the SL is well-established in other sectors – notably in relation to extractive industries - it has only very recently begun to be discussed in relation to digital innovation and data-intensive industries. This paper therefore draws on existing literature relating to the SL in extractive industries to explore the potential approaches needed to establish a SL for emerging data-intensive industries. Additionally, it draws on well-established literature relating to trust (from psychology and organisational science) to examine the relevance of trust, and trustworthiness, for emerging practices in data-intensive industries. In doing so the paper considers the extent to which pursuing a SL might complement regulation and inform codes of practice to place ethical and social considerations at the heart of industry practice. We focus on one key industry: FinTech (Financial Technology). We demonstrate the importance of combining technical and social approaches to address ethical challenges in data-intensive innovation (particularly relating to AI) and to establish relationships of trust to underpin a SL for FinTech. Such approaches are needed across all areas and industries of data-intensive innovation to complement regulation and inform the development of ethical codes of practice. This is important to underpin culture change and to move beyond rhetorical commitments to develop best practice putting ethics at the heart of innovation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Aitken M, Toreini E, Carmichael P, Coopamootoo K, Elliott K, van Moorsel A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Big Data and Society

Year: 2020

Volume: 7

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-15

Online publication date: 04/03/2020

Acceptance date: 03/02/2020

Date deposited: 28/02/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2053-9517

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/2053951720908892


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