Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

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Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  DennisProesch on Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:39 am

Firms are tracking customers personal conversations to find the most suitable keywords for their search engine marketing strategy. Do you think it’s an ethical way to do business ? What about the privacy of the Internet users ?
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  LeopoldineVivant on Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:01 am

Databases have always existed: from demographical data, to genealogical ones or mailing lists. The thing is that with the rise of the Internet, the use of the data is broadened and can really go faster. Internet users give nowadays a lot of personal information, which allows companies to give them the best answer, the one that will fit them the most. When the Internet user is looking for something precise, the search provider will need some information to give the best answer as possible. The better the search provider knows the Internet user, the better it can answer to its need. Then there is no real ethical issue: if properly used, this exchange of data can benefit to both sides, allowing both users and businesses to have a better use of the Internet. The ethical issue would come from the unclear use of information: if the user agrees for its data to be used to answer its search, what about the fact that companies might decide to share these information to other purposes, or decide to store these data whitout asking for the user's permission? According to me this ethical issue can only be solved if companies agree to obey to some kind of moral code (even though this might be a bit wishful thinking). It is also then that governance should appear, to force companies using these data to obey to this kind of code.
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Not ethical but wise

Post  Xiaowei Wen on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:10 am

In my mind, since the Internet emerged, privacy no longer existed. Once you installed the Microsoft system, all your personal info in your PC would be obtained by the Micro Co., once you installed the Chrome, you browsing history could be reserved by Google, and once you search sth. via a search engine (whatever the name of the engine), your searching records will definitely be put into the company's database...so do the msn, FB...just to name a few...
Every Internet company is doing the same thing, so it's really hard to define ethical or not.
From the case, the tool the author recommended (eg. TweetScan..) provides the similar function for keyword pricing, so if they just use the tools for optimal pricing strategy (eg. via some data mining methods), it's nothing unethical or illegal, on the contrary it's wise for the firms. But they should ensure that these information will not leak to public, or they will get trouble with lawsuits....
So to sum up, I think it's not ethical but wise, which should also be used very very carefully.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  EsbenSvaneKrarup on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:32 am

I guess it is a matter of consent. As long as the consumer willingly accepts that a company tab into or use personal conversation to its own benefit I do do not necessarily see it as a problem. I use several Google service knowing that they keep my data for 18 months.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  CQUILAN on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:42 am

Thank you for your participation guys! I am personnally frightened about internet illimited memory : nothing of what is posted would be lost or forgotten ! ... how do you feel about that ? Do you think it could be very damageable ? Should we implement some sort of regulations ?
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  patrick.cato on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:47 am

Well, basically I think as long as you give information voluntarily out to the public - for instance in form of a Facebook or Google + post – there is no infringement of any ethical conduct. But if private emails and messages or documents are scanned I see an infringement. That is also the reason why I personally pay for my email account, because I don’t sell my personal data to Google or Yahoo. But I think as long people know what will be done with their data that is ok. Nevertheless a lot of people do not know that google analysis their emails and google docs so I think Google should make that visible if you create an account.
So yes, I think we should have regulations that users get informed about what will happen with their data! Everyone should know that if for instance Chrome is installed, your data are captured!
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  Melvin Loggies on Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:20 am

Xiaowei Wen wrote:In my mind, since the Internet emerged, privacy no longer existed. Once you installed the Microsoft system, all your personal info in your PC would be obtained by the Micro Co., once you installed the Chrome, you browsing history could be reserved by Google, and once you search sth. via a search engine (whatever the name of the engine), your searching records will definitely be put into the company's database...so do the msn, FB...just to name a few...
Every Internet company is doing the same thing, so it's really hard to define ethical or not.
From the case, the tool the author recommended (eg. TweetScan..) provides the similar function for keyword pricing, so if they just use the tools for optimal pricing strategy (eg. via some data mining methods), it's nothing unethical or illegal, on the contrary it's wise for the firms. But they should ensure that these information will not leak to public, or they will get trouble with lawsuits....
So to sum up, I think it's not ethical but wise, which should also be used very very carefully.

To be honest, I don't really agree on the fact how you come to the conclusion that if it's wise for the company it's automatically not unethical or not illegal. Many companies maximize their revenue by illegal practices. But in this case I agree with you that the way how Google (and other search engines) improves its service is not unethical or illegal. Personally I encourage the data gathering because I know it's done fully automatically(so nobody sees my searches directly) and I encourage it especially because this will improve the search engine, which is in advantage for Google, other companies, but also for me.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  CQUILAN on Mon Oct 17, 2011 1:52 pm

Given what Patrick and Melvin have said, 2 questions come to my mind :

1. Do you reckon paying will be the only way to have some privacy in a near future ?

2. Would you rather give all your data to one company (through Chrome, Google, Gmail, Gtalk, Picasa, Google +), or would you rather spread the information (IE, Google, yahoo, facebook, ...) so that you give away less information about you to each person ?
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Privacy

Post  Laurent Corigliano on Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:03 pm

Hey,

1. Concerning the first question, I don't think I'll be willing to pay in order to have privacy. As someone said before, the Internet has "literally" killed privacy. Now you can meet someone, talk to a stranger, pay something to someone you've never met..etc and If you are an Internet user, you should be aware of it, and I think many people know that when they go on facebook, google+, gmail, tumblr, ebay, air company websites. they give personal information, but they just accept it since that's the rules. For some personal information, I think that's good that websites ask for information.
So I don't be willing to pay to have privacy, I want it to be secure for free. i'm only willing to pay if I get a better quality of service.

2. Given my first answer, I think I'll choose option one: all my data to one company. i don't really care if they know everything about me: if that's the best in every field, I want to use the best. In addition, I do believe it's really more convenient to have everything on one single platform!



CQUILAN wrote:Given what Patrick and Melvin have said, 2 questions come to my mind :

1. Do you reckon paying will be the only way to have some privacy in a near future ?

2. Would you rather give all your data to one company (through Chrome, Google, Gmail, Gtalk, Picasa, Google +), or would you rather spread the information (IE, Google, yahoo, facebook, ...) so that you give away less information about you to each person ?
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  LeopoldineVivant on Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:29 pm

About the first question, my opinion is the same as Laurent's.
This might change though. According to me, with all the privacy issues that the Internet is facing, whether the state manages to take efficient measures to protect the users, whether the private sector will do it (with paying fees). Once people decide it's worth paying for privacy then the latter becomes "monetized" and privacy becomes a mere good that people can buy and sell. I don't think we are that far yet though. I think this situation will change according to the regulations measure that are or wil be implemented.

Regarding the second issue, I am not really sure that diversifying really is the solution for privacy: it only prevents to collect all the data at once, but accessing to data remains possible. This only delays the problem but doesn't solve it.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  joern.esdohr on Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:02 pm

I think we have to distinguish the user information produced by using the generic search service and more personal services like mail or docs.

I have no obligations against the search provider keeping track of the queries run, after all, the information is used to provide more accurate results and more relevant ads. If users are not okay with that, they are free to use any other service -- but I doubt there is one that doesn't practice this.

Services like mail and docs is a totally different story, being highly personal with private content. I'm tolerating that my mails are automatically scanned and ads are selected accordingly. My content is admittedly not relevant to anyone else and the service quality is weighing up on that too.

I will not pay for such services since there are many providers who grant free access as well, or use freemium models to bind a customer base. As online services are getting more and more intertwined, slowly forming a company's user ecosystem and subsequently a lock-in effect, each user is becoming a very valuable asset. I would say, the trend is moving towards choosing one ecosystem and be (fully) invested into it. It starts with the desktop OS, over mail, calendar, messenger to social network. It definitely will take a few years to get there but the notion is already there.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  r99725051 on Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:11 am

They do data mining finding out customers behavior I think it's not very related to ethical problem. They don't have that kind of resources to focus on only one's behavior, so I guess most of their way is grouping whose behavior alike. Few of people have their own, unique consumer behavior, so if everyone is only a data in their categorized database, then it's not very related to privacy issue.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  MeiShinLee on Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:26 am

1.) I think it's OK to me that the search engine keep my search records and compute a better result for me. As Leo said before, it's kind of exchanging useful information between the users and the service providers. To the service providers, they want the user's personal data to customize their services to the specific user. So I think I won't pay for it to prevent the service provider to catch my data on the premise that the service provider won't sell my data to someone else. If the service provider will sell my data to others without my permission, I would like to pay for my privacy. Because I don't like there's someone (I don't know or without my authorization) possess my personal data.

2.) I sometimes keep some important information(i.e. ID numbers, phone number, address, etc.) secret or fake when I register some website which I don't use frequently. Because I don't want any disturbance when the website sell my data. But when it comes to import transactions, I always give all my data to the company to assure the security. Very Happy

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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  alex.gordiani on Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:27 am

When you ask if this is an ethical way to do business i think it's important to stress the fact that most of the time there is a lack of transparency on how this tracked data will be used(even if they say they wont share it..how can you know that is true?). As someone stated before web company (google etc) often makes use of copyright laws or user agreements to obtain consent to surveillance from consumers, typically uninformed, who use their software or other related materials. This allows gathering of information which would be technically illegal if performed by other agencies: ie. government agencies. The problem comes when this data is shared with government agencies (and this happen often), defeating then the purpose of such privacy protections.
This issue about lack of privacy become even more significant with the advent of the smartphone. Thanks to the geolocation feature, now service providers like Google are able to track also your physical movement while consumers are using mobile devices, which some are syncring even without any user interaction.
Someone said that with these features service providers will be able to give a better ads service... but at what price? All these information they are gathering can be dangerous if used not properly...they will be able to influence our free will in direct or indirect ways (they are already trying to do it)...i'm sure most of you reading this will think: "no way they can influence my free will because i always do and buy whatever i want"... but thats the real purpose of them in my opinion...be able to manipulate decisions of the people letting them thinking they are free to do whatever they want....

Looking what is happening in US with the Totali Information Awareness, renamed later "Terrorism Information Awareness" after a negative public reaction, combined with the immense power of the information gathered by service providers, i think we are moving towards the creation of what George Orwell named "BIG BROTHER" in his book 1984.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  zhieeep on Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:34 am

In the current legal environment it is increasingly difficult for a company to unlawfully extract information from the user without permission. In the days before it was known Google and Apple were tracking our whereabouts and purchasing patterns, it may have still been possible, but now everything is out in the open. Its absolutely hypocritical to question the ethical nature of the business as it would not exist without us, the end user and our explicit consent. How many times have we clicked through "User Agreements" in order to install a program without actually reading the mountain of text. No matter how we look at it, search programs would never extract any information without our keystroke. Instead, we should accept that our privacy is a commodity and take ownership of it. It is a natural consequence of connecting to the Internet but we can benefit from it if we leverage it and protect it, no different than we would our wallets, keys, and diary. A search engine cannot be considered evil as it is merely reflecting the data it has gathered from the past. Chiding search engines for being too invasive means only that we have done something in our digital lives that we are ashamed of and want no one else to know. If we have nothing to hide, why should we chide the search engines for optimizing its results. The educated netizen should know how to surf incognito and delete cache of personal information if they are unwilling to share their market data. Nothing in this world is for free, and the free google.com searches we make come at the price of our privacy.
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Re: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  d.alsafi@gmail.com on Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:54 am

Greetings,

Very nice discussion! In fact when I think about information gathering in its simplicity, then it is a great thing as it helps societies to build a clearer picture of what is the Internet culture, user preferences and information about every single segments of users.

If we look at the information gathering through surfing through the Internet and specially with the search engines, then I see no problem with this at all. In fact, I think it must be our duty to provide information!
From an ethical point of view, then I think it is fair, because the rules are set by the service providers which by the way offer their service for free. As a user, it is the kind of take it or leave it- deal. Indeed, exchanging goods trade manner is the oldest manner of trading on earth. The service providers offer a set of home pages and you (the user) gather information from these. In exchange the user gives a pattern of the user's preferences. It is awesome and it works!

The thing that really concerns me in this matter is whether the information gathered from ME are used in an ethical way. That is to say for instance the information I gave are used against me or to manipulate me. Here the question would be whether you want trust your provider or not ?!

The question about privacy in data mining ambiguous. Privacy is one of our human rights, But why do we demand privacy on free of charge services?! I think It would fair for all part if people would like to have privacy then it must be charged. because in the end, somebody has to pay the bills. For this reason corporations with valuable information use internal servers and encrypt their outward connections.

The question about spreading the use of service providers to minimise the given information to each party is very tricky. If the intention is to mislead then in the long term it would be useless to focus on this as it would anyway form a sort picture of the user's preferences. Personally I would be happy to provide my search engine providers with as much of my data as possible in order to lead me to the right information/purchase I am looking for as long as it is free of cost and time saving!

My question to you is, Do you trust your search engine provider?

Cheers,

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Privacy

Post  pierrelin on Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:59 am

I agree with Zhi, I don't think we got to where we are because companies are always tiptoeing around catering to everybody's privacy needs. In this day and age, the average consumer should be well aware of how to control their flow of information and decide what gets out and what does not. Privacy in terms of consumer behavior to me does not sit on the same level as privacy in terms of personal online banking, etc. If you want to study the way I look at items on the web, and how I click through the internet, go ahead, because I know at the end of the day I'm going to have a more relative experience in the future. I like going to my amazon profile and having them suggesting things for me I would otherwise not have considered.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  Ally Feng on Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:01 am

I think that privacy is like security, which is something that you want to have at an "appropriate" amount, because the search for extreme safe privacy and security is tiresome.
The rapid growth of Internet shows that people are often willing to sacrifice some privacy for convenience to some extent, the question is everyone has different measurement.
Also, the privacy concern becomes more of a issue of trust, since there's essentially no way to stop service providers from recording information about you.
I feel that debating over the ethical dilemma is not going to have a satisfying conclusion, because there's really no turing back of Internet era. (But of course providers have to avoid some to controversial misconduct)
A more posotive course of action is for providers to find a way to manage users who has different level of privacy concerns.
Letting users set privacy settings might be one way(like Facebook)
Anyway, it's important for providers to monitor users perception of privacy, and not to irritate them.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  Glen Yang on Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:33 am

Speaking of TIA,
there are a lot of liberty-security debate since the US government use data mining to build a huge database of their citizen,
one of the proponents of data mining, Judge Richard Posner argues that
“in an era of global terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the government has a compelling need to gather, pool, sift, and search vast quantities of information, much of it personal.”

But this souldn't be a zero-sum tradeoff, which means that either you do the data mining or do nothing,
instead, the government or company should assess the security threat, and assess the effectiveness of security measures,and do the data mining under some kind of supervision or control. And also there are problems with the collection of information and processing of Information, lacking of transparency is a key point to considerate, too.

alex.gordiani wrote:
Looking what is happening in US with the Totali Information Awareness, renamed later "Terrorism Information Awareness" after a negative public reaction, combined with the immense power of the information gathered by service providers, i think we are moving towards the creation of what George Orwell named "BIG BROTHER" in his book 1984.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  gregoire.schiller on Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:16 am

First, I would like to react on zhieeep post.

You mention that companies' can't be blamed because users' eventually agree to give information to search engines. But the problem is: "How many users are aware of the information they give using Facebook or search engines?".

Have you ever read the 30 pages terms and conditions when you install a software on your computer? I haven't. It would take me 2 hours and I don't have the legal background to understand all the details of such an agreement. This is why companies can't write whatever they want on these conditions. They first have to refer to a legal authority. Everyone knows users can't be blamed for not reading these 30 pages.

Let's get back to personal data issues. Facebook is constantly changing its policy when it comes to users' personal information. Users' personal data sharing options would have to be checked everytime to make sure one gives only what he wants. I find it nearly impossible to follow. As a result, legal authorities should have a responsibily on personal information sharing.

So I think authorities should take care of the personal information sharing as well as users.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  alex.gordiani on Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:55 am

I agree with you when you say "i like how i get the advice to what is better for me when i log in Amazon" or when i join a social shopping website or any kind of eCommerce website. But to achieve that is enough to track my researches or the list of my last items seen or something like that.... But we are talking about "Firms are tracking customers personal conversations" and in my opinion it goes much further than the mere intention to produce the "best ads/advice that fits our needs". They are creating a database of information that is so much valuable and in my opinion dangerous if not used properly. So as Diego said before: Do you really trust them? Do you really think they will care of you as a single user?

Let's go further and make a provocative question: Google is having a lot of legal issues and will have even more in the future. Do you think they have something valuable to offer to authority/government to save their business?
Maybe my vision is too drastic but history showed us that the human being is not that good.

Remember that in the digital area the most valuable asset is information. Before (still but less) was held by mass media, propaganda campaign etc.. now there is a shift on the internet, all (or most of) the information come from internet so the power of it goes in the hands of who control it. (and to be honest is quite overweening say that a single user can do it)
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  alex.gordiani on Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:31 am

When i said that is overweening say that a single user can control internet i wanted to mean the control of the flow of information you receive through internet.
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Re: Sponsored Search: Question 4 - Ethical Consideration

Post  gregoire.schiller on Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:38 pm

I agree with Alex. I think we are dealing with one of the key issues for company as Google.

To me, this situation makes me think of 1984 by George Orwell. Aren't we getting less and less privacy these days? "Big Brother is watching you" is getting more and more a reality. Big Brother being companies as Google, Amazon or Facebook.

These companies have a huge amount of information. And I think we are getting too far and out of control. I'm not aware of what Google has on me today and it's a situation we should be very careful about.

Also, these companies have signed agreements not to share private information with everyone. But we all know that keeping online information is a very tricky issue. Even the American government lost a lot of information with Wikileaks.

What if some pirates or dangerous organisations could get all the data from Google?
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