Evaluating the Ethics of Information Transparency

Question

Dear sire

*Can you read the following question and choose for part (a) Amazon policy as example and for part (b) can you choose smartphone app for Facebook as example 

*Write 2 pages for part (a) and 2 pages for part (b) of the question


a) Read the privacy policy of a large and popular website. Write a brief summary. Identify the site (name, web address, type of site). Give examples of parts of the policy that are or are not clear or reasonable.
b) Chose any smartphone app that includes a privacy statement or policy. Summarize and evaluate it. Can you think of any important things that are missing?

Note: Part of the grading of this assignment will be on the discussion we will have in the class and your input on your assignment and the other students in the course.


P.S. This question is from the Assignments’ section in Chapter 2 of the course textbook attached. (It’s in page 123). So read chapter 2 to get an idea on the kind of issues you need to talk about while answering the above question. *Textbook attached!

Answer

Amazon’s Privacy Policy

            Since its inception as the pioneer in online retailing, Amazon.com offers a platform for online business transactions. The company provides a variety of products to its customers including books, electronics toys, furniture, apparel, and videos. Following the rise in the popularity of the Internet in the mid-1990s, the website’s founder decided to begin selling books on the World Wide Web as it offered a worldwide market as well as opportunities for the sale of such items at affordable prices. The company uses Amazon.com as its website, which was launched in 1995 (Amazon Inc., 2016). Over time, the site became the number one book marketplace on the Web, and this popularity was reflected in internet rankings.

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            Initially, the company had searchable databases of more than one million titles, enabling customers to order the books and pay using a credit card and have their orders shipped in few days.  Amazon.com had few titles in its Seattle warehouses with most orders placed through wholesalers and publishers. This gave it a competitive edge over other competitors such as Barnes & Noble. As the forerunner in the world of ecommerce, Amazon.com had to set standards for online business. It did this by formulating policies that governed its operations and which made the site user-friendly.

                Accordingly, the company has a privacy policy which stipulates what it will do as well as what it will not do with the personal information collected from its customers. Like other businesses, Amazon.com collects personal information about its users such as what they purchase, what goods they like, and products they look at. This information is relevant to businesses particularly in terms of their marketing efforts. As depicted by Sara (2013), there is a need to consider two fundamental aspects of social media, which include information shared and responsibilities of the companies that host this information such as Amazon.

            One of Amazon.com’s privacy policies entails treating the information about their customers in a confidential manner, meaning that it should not be shared with a third party. However, the company has a revised notice which indicates that it gathers data about users each time they search for a product. It is unreasonable for customers to be protected by a notice which reads more like a warning than an advisory note. Rather they should be protected by policies which serve as procedures or a courses of action that guide decisions. The privacy policy is also unclear about the assertion that the information collected about consumers will not be sold to other companies. This is particularly problematic in view of the declaration that the corporation has exclusive rights to change this policy anytime without informing the user. By doing so, the company violates the rights of its users and affiliated businesses. This has led some firms such as Electronic Privacy Information Center to abandon Amazon.com and instead resorting to retailing books through its own website.

                 Besides, the customer essentially shares information once he/she opens an account with the company or corporation, and reserves the right to cancel it any time he/she wishes. However, Amazon.com does not indicate to its users on how to cancer an account. To close it, the user has to write to them and declare his/her intention to that effect.  Furthermore, once the user deletes his/her account, the company does not entirely delete account details from its systems, meaning that they are deemed to be part of the company’s database forever. This means that it is easy to join Amazon.com but almost impossible to quit.

     Besides, Amazon.com has in the past violated the law as well as its privacy policy by connecting cookies on its customers’ devices and also selling their data without permission. It is not clear why the company’s website is designed to install regular and flash cookies on customers’ computers. In continuing to do this, Amazon is violating the law and the rights of its customers.

Facebook Application’s Privacy Policy

            Facebook App has a privacy statement that offers guidelines on how information obtained or submitted by users is treated. The policy also provides the name of the company that is authorized to deliver the application’s capabilities on its behalf. Furthermore, the name of a licensor or partner is indicated in all instances where the services are offered by a third party. Moreover, Facebook has introduced various policies that create a binding agreement between it and the application user. The section on information states the type of data the company collects from users and the type of personal information that users are required to provide or authorize the company to obtain. Some of these personal details include names, email address, gender, IP address, username, and browser information (Facebook Inc., 2016).

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            There is also some additional information that is obtained automatically and recorded in the social media company’s database. Examples of this information include a user’s Facebook Page fan status, the IP address of the computer used and URLs accessed. Notably, this information can be shared the company’s partners. Meanwhile, the policy offers guidelines on how the data obtained by these partners can be used. According to the privacy statement, the aim of sharing this information with partners is improve its services and products. However, the company does not sell or rent any data gathered other than sharing it with the Application partner. Apart from the partners, Facebook’s agents may also have access to user information which they must use only to assist the user. Because personal information of a user is one of the assets of the company, it is undoubtedly one of the assets that would be transferred or acquired by a third party in the event that Facebook goes out of business or is sold to another firm. This important fact has not been stated in the privacy statement.

            In addition, the company has the right to release personal information of the users without their consent in cases where such act is in good faith, for example, in efforts to observe the law, protect their property, and improve user safety. Elsewhere, the policy of conditions of use binds the user of the application to limitations on damages, settlement of disputes, and application of statutes. Furthermore, the privacy policy stipulates the information that a user can access for the purpose of viewing or updating that information (Sara, 2013). It also defines who has access to the service; children under 13 years should have no access to the application, and those who have not yet reached adulthood should have their parents’ permission before submitting any personal information (Facebook Inc., 2016). Finally, the company has a policy that states that it has exclusive rights to change the privacy statement from time to time and users are bound by these changes immediately they access or use the application.

            Unfortunately, the Facebook App. privacy policy lacks some of the elements that are vital to ensuring that the interests of the user, particularly security, is guaranteed. First, application’s terms of use tend to favor the company company’s interests at the expense of users’. The company owns the user information it collects. If the account is dormant for some time, Facebook reserves the right to terminate it. The company should not protect its interests at the expense of those of users. Furthermore, Facebook should stop going against its privacy statement regarding data use by compelling users to share personal information only to avail it to the public through monetization. Personal information should not be availed to the public in this manner at any time. Lastly, the company makes it hard to delete the Facebook account entirely. One is only given the option of deactivating it. The Facebook App should have an option that enables users to delete their account any time they wish to in order to ensure that their personal information is removed from the company’s databases.

References

Amazon Inc. (2016). Amazon Privacy Notice. Accessed at https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=468496

Facebook Inc. (2016). Facebook Data Privacy. Accessed at https://web.facebook.com/policy.php?_rdr

Sara, B (2013).  A gift of fire: Social, legal, and ethical issues for computing technology, 4th edition. New York, NY: Pearson.

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