Computer Ethics Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3784 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 30  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

Computer Ethics

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The Internet's rapid evolution as a publishing and commerce platform further extends its ability to serve as another marketing, selling, and service channel for companies globally, yet with this potential for revenue growth comes the ethical responsibility of managing customers' data vigilantly. The issue of benevolent or benign surveillance or the providing of personal information by the public to complete transactions at ATM machines, automated pay terminals in shops or restaurants, or the online purchase of products or services is considered by many to be one of the characteristics of living in a highly developed technological society. Included in this papers' discussion of benign surveillance are technologies including personalization, cookies (small files that capture a website visitors' specific information items), and use of continual recording of click stream data through a site is being captured, organized and analyzed through data warehouses and data marts.. The ethics of capturing so much customer data and creating a data warehouse and data marts and then analyzing it to find new strategies to get customer to buy more, and the unethical practice of reselling the information captured from Internet-based marketing campaigns puts ethical dilemmas in the forefront of many companies. In addition the collection of customer data from website visits and responses to e-mail campaigns create the risk of potential identity theft due to having so much information in one place on prospects and customers in one series of databases. The collection and analysis of customer data captured without consent raises many ethical dilemmas for companies, and also creates dilemmas and potential conflicts of interest relating to the capture, analysis, or sales of customer information without their knowledge

Term Paper on Computer Ethics Assignment

The ethical issues of whether benign surveillance is a commentary of a modern high-tech society or a precedent for ethical misconduct and harm to others is discussed in this paper. There are also the considerations of how data captured and stored in data warehouse is used by programmers and management analysts in the devising of selling and loyalty program strategies (Albrechtslund, 63). The ethical considerations of using data warehouses and data marts constructed from data accumulated through benign surveillance requires an entirely different set of standards, practices and processes (Danna & Gandy, p. 374, 5). The ethics of strategies based on data obtained through benign surveillance have conflicting assessments (Ess, p. 220, 221) that highlight the polarity of the use of online data and enterprise-class predictive analytics software applications to ascertain customer segments and understand their preferences. Harrah's Casinos and Entertainment practices this pervasively with their customer base, sending the least profitable customers to competitors and giving the most profitable ones an opportunity to gain free stays at their hotel and casino locations globally for their loyalty, relying on the insights gained from predictive analytics applications to define and execute this strategy.

The use of data obtained through benign surveillance to specifically "fire" unprofitable customers and segment them based on profitability is considered unethical by ethicists studying information technologies (Lacey & Sneath, pp. 459, 460). Floridi (pp. 109, 110) discusses in detail the ethical considerations of data privacy and the need to ensure there is "opt in" or specific approval from consumers for their data to be analyzed and used for the creation of strategies (Peeples, pp. 27, 28) (Tavani, 268, 269).

The Ethics of Analyzing Data Obtained Through Benign Surveillance

Websites and other forms of electronic initiatives that companies use to capture customer data are increasingly being seen a untrustworthy by consumers as a result of the reported unethical use of their data (Vedder, pp. 276, 277) (Triplett, p. 79) (Phukan, pp. 235, 236, 237). The erosion of trust in many forms of electronic payment systems is one of the largest inhibitors of their global adoption (Peterson, p. 347). The ethics of using consumers' data without their permissions have actually brought greater scrutiny than ever to loyalty programs (Lacey & Sneath, et.al) and abandonment (Ingram, Skinner & Taylor, pp. 238, 240, 241). From this perspective of trust as defined through the empirical studies presented (Weckert, p. 93), a dichotomy emerges from the impact of benign surveillance-based data having the implied warranty of staying private (Soraker) and the development of loyalty programs with it without the knowledge of consumers (We & Royakkers, et.al.). Ethicists may argue the points of implied warranties of privacy, yet the public, through the use of social media including blogs, Wikis and other forms of social networking, is quick to condemn a violation of this trust. In many respects the role of a more communicative and collaborative Web as defined as Web 2.0 (Bernoff & Li) is forcing a high level of transparency into how data collected through benign surveillance is used. While there are a multitude of standards being deployed to force transparency, including those from the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) (Peslak, et.al), the immediacy and level of transparency of social networking is redefining and clarifying what level of use is considered part of modern living and which is considered clearly a violation of ethics leading to a deterioration of public trust (G rniak-Kocikowska. p. 48). There is no specific benchmark or ethical standard as defined that is applicable globally across the spectrum of data analyses, marketing and sales plans based on data collected through benign surveillance; there is however a significant increase in the volume and intensity of consumers' concerns as voiced through social media and social networking sites. The collection of technologies Bernoff and Li (pp. 36, 37) discuss and analyze are forming the foundation that quickly redefines what is acceptable vs. unacceptable in the use of data sets. Social networking and Web 2.0 define what specific uses of benign surveillance-based data is part of living in a technologically advanced society vs. being taken advantage of through unauthorized data mining and unethical use of the data (Phukan, pp. 234, 235). This is not to say that "the wisdom of the crowds" pervades the definition of ethical behavior through social networking; it does say however that those consumers whose data is being used for analysis have the right to say how that data will be used, regardless of the prevailing and often imprecise standards of ethics that vary significantly between those who seek the advantage of the data in marketing vs. those whose data it is (Johnstone, et.al).

The Ethics of Creating Strategies Using Data Derived From Benign Surveillance

The ethics of capturing data through benign surveillance is one factor in the debate of the ethicacy of this activity, yet the synchronization of strategies based on its use, including the use of the data in programming contexts and environments is another (Himma, p. 226, 227). For example the development of an entirely new service offering from a bank or credit union that capitalizes on trends found in data obtained through benign surveillance is a case in point, requiring the participating and cooperation of several different groups of employees. As a result of these projects, confidential purchasing data and trending by consumer is easily accessible to any member of the team, accelerating concerns over benign surveillance being a liability to consumers (Bynum, 2006, pp. 157, 158).

From the initial uses of data obtained through benign surveillance in financial services throughout the last seven years the extent of potential breaches to data obtained through benign surveillance is exponentially increasing (Bynum, 2001, et.al.). The examples of this and the perils of it from a personal privacy perspective include the extensive capture of personal loan and financial information on the part of prospective lenders through voluntary mass surveillance, capture of loan and financial information on consumers to other firms, and the theft of this data as well from breaches during the development process (Bynum, 2001, et.al.). Globalization is forcing the distribution of development teams globally, further complicating governance and control of the use of confidential data.

These examples underscore the critical need for defining ethics standards for financial professionals including financial services developers who work with data obtained through voluntary mass surveillance. The ethics of working with data not specifically created from opt-in data present ethical dilemmas for developers (Pemberton, pp. 77, 78) (Tavani, p. 37). Ethical governance is critical during the development phases of new financial services applications as there are many examples of data being either stolen or resold without the consumers; consent. Examples abound of this practice of reselling financial data on consumers, and worse, the theft of the data from companies who have purchased it. Certegy Financial Services' data breach of 8.5 million checking account customers is a case in point, where a systems administrator in the it Department stole backup tapes of account names, social security numbers, and checking account and routing numbers for resale to an undercover FBI agent. Luckily only the last four digits of the account numbers were only shown and best of all the FBI captured the administrator and the data sets before they could enter the black market and be resold to criminals who use this data to both in turn… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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