Datamining By Large Corporations

Data Mining: The Greater Good Or Invasion Of Privacy?

Group 70

In an ever increasing world of interconnectivity the modern day consumer’s personal and private information is subject to exploitation via technologies which unknowingly extract and sell user information on a daily basis. The distribution of personal data is currently a major financial resource for corporate giants Google and Facebook who dominate the digital advertising market as they allow marketers better targeting options; elsewhere data from your mobile phone can be resold by your telecommunications company to other groups. The capacity of developing technologies is becoming increasingly apparent to the general public and due to the extremely limited legislation currently in place to dictate who can see and use this data we must beg the question as to where measures must be taken and who by?

The dark side of stored data

Datamining By Large CorporationsA major issue related to the storage of data is the lack of control that the general public have over their personal information. This is particularly the case with various social media platforms which contain vast amounts of personal information, extremely valuable to marketers and campaigners.  In recent years, platforms as prolific as Facebook have come under scrutiny for their use of “Friends’ permission” data. Initially used for applications such as games and quizzes, friends’ permission was a feature used by outside software developers that allowed access to the personal data of friends of the people who used the apps. This access was terminated in mid-2014, however it is not known how many developers used this data. Facebook continues to sell personal data to outside developers but it is now more restricted and requires users’ permission. In spite of this a recent scandal involving the use of data acquired from Facebook revealed that “Friends’ permission” had been used to gather data through a personality quiz. It was uncovered that the data mining/ data analysis company Cambridge Analytica had used the data to run Donald Trump’s political digital campaign and that over 50 million users’ information had been harvested despite only 270,000 of which using the quiz.

Looking At FacebookAnother increasingly concerning issue for the general public is the safety of private data. As the capacity and usage of online storage has become increasingly widespread, private financial information and information considered confidential has become increasingly exposed to hostile attacks. The NHS suffered one of most significant cyber attacks in UK history in 2017 when hackers were able to access and block the use of patient records and further freeze the use of key systems, including telephones. Companies handling sensitive data, such as this, therefore have a responsibility to keep cyber security ahead of the hackers. Elsewhere intrusion into private life is becoming the norm where technologies such as phone tapping, car tracking, satellite positioning monitoring and workplace monitoring track the activities of the general public masses on a daily basis. The development and application of these modern technologies have made privacy nowhere to hide and pose a very real threat to those affected.

The light side of stored data

While there are some drawbacks to personal data acquisition, corporations especially those in the online retail sector often use collected data for the benefit of their customers by improving products and services based on consumer preferences. By using massive amounts of data they can tailor their products to suit your taste as a consumer and provide more personal shopping experiences based on your online and  in-store shopping habits. JD, an online retail company in china, is using its shopping data about consumers in geographic locations to supply goods to convenience stores, cutting the need to travel long distances to purchase a product.  Amazon uses vast amounts of personal data about their users to add value to their customer service relationships by creating more individualised and human customer service interactions.

Data about individuals can also be sourced from other devices around the individual. The rise of smartphones has led to an exponential increase in video recordings. Smart glasses and autonomous vehicles will have most areas of an urban city surveyed at any point in time and its estimated that by 2022 the total number of cameras in the world will be about 45 billion. The awareness of surveillance this raises the security of roads and alleyways as it deters offenders and decreases the likelihood of terrorist attacks. It also reduces the fear of crime thereby stimulating investment and the implementation of innovative technology in communities.

A combination of data from varying sources about an individual’s habits can give a lot of information to improve the efficiency of personalised healthcare. Data on quality of food, fitness levels, sleeping patterns etc can get you a quicker and more informed diagnosis from your doctor. It can be used to suggest healthier habits and point out early indicators on diseases therefore preventing them before they occur. In this context, a utilitarian perspective comfortably agrees with personal data acquisition as its use provides the greatest happiness for all stakeholders; individuals can get better and more accurate diagnosis and medical attention, the government spends less on health-related costs.

Further Remarks

Clearly the various stakeholders present opposing values where virtues of ambition conflict virtues of honesty and respectfulness. In considering various ethical frameworks ultimately utilitarian ethics provides the most suitable framework, in particular that which agrees with the freedom principle, suggesting that everyone is free to strive for their own pleasure as long as it is not at the expense of others (Mill). Therefore all the various stakeholders have individual responsibilities. Government legislation should induce honesty and openness of what data is used and sold by companies to the extent that it does not affect performance and growth. Companies themselves should provide measures to protect personal privacy and provide sufficient cyber security. Furthermore, consumers themselves must take action in considering where disposable income is channelled and take more responsibility for their own actions in storing data online.

58 thoughts on “Data Mining: The Greater Good Or Invasion Of Privacy?

  1. Its true that the company providing the platform for personal data to be harvested and the consumer using it are responsible. However, the case today is that the privacy policy of the organization handling the data is not fully transparent for its user. This was the case with Facebook where now they have to redo their privacy policy while having to investigate deeply more in ensuring there’s no other case such as Cambridge Anlytica (CA). It was a surprised when they have known about the privacy breach since 2015 but hasn’t taken proper action to prevent it from continuing. One of the problem is also about unethical organization who would benefit from stealing personal data. Its both the CA and also the person who hired them behind the curtain. Its is really scary to find how unethical people could be to obtain power. Overall great article!

    My humble opinion,
    Hope you could give your insight on our article too! Thanks in advance. (group 45)


  2. All these companies have a Terms and Conditions that you must agree to before using their services. The specifics of what they do with your data tend to be provided in this document, yet most people just click “I Agree” without even reading them! How, then, can they complain that their data is being misused?

  3. Yes, this is true, but wouldn’t it seem unfair and unethical that the company, which you have given the rights to your personal data, allows this data to be used against you?

  4. This topic really needs us to think about and focus on currently. Data mining does benefit us a lot, such as helping marketers understand customers’ needs much easier and more accurately. However, there are also lots of privacy issues regarding this topic, which has been mentioned in this article. Great!

  5. The main problem of data mining is how to ensure the privacy and safety of the data. The detailed method of solving this problem can be looked into for further research related to this topic.

  6. In the last section of this article, it has mentioned that government should guide the company to use data in an appropriate way, but does it really work in the reality, will it be better for government to set the effective punitive mechanism to solve this problem?

  7. The distribution of personal data is currently a major financial resource for corporate giants Google and Facebook. Is it really ethical to make profits by data mining?

    1. I don’t think so, considering that I own the data and if there is value in the data then I should be able to control who can have access to it or even sell it to whoever wants to make profit off it

      1. I don’t agree your opinion, because I think the data should belong to people themselves and not you. Regardless of how you get this personal information, it is illegal to sell it.

  8. This article reminds us that privacy issues are significant and need to be valued. Using big data to improve corporate marketing strategies and to help consumers find products that are more suitable for them is of course beneficial to society. However, if it cannot effectively manage the collection, use, and preservation of data, the harm it brings will be greater than the benefits. People can learn from past lessons and set up more effective and safe systems to prevent hacker attacks. Establish laws and regulations to protect the privacy of the public, and limit company abuse of personal information, so as to maximize the benefits of both parties.

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