The advertising industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past decade. In the past, advertisers had to guess where they could reach potential customers on television, radio and print. Now, much of the advertising budget is spent online where advertisers are able to reach specific individuals who are most likely to buy their advertiser’s product or service. Through Google they know what you have searched for and deliver ads for that. Amazon knows what you buy and suggests products based upon that. Facebook know a great deal about your life through your posts, you friends, your messages as well as any web site you sign in using your Facebook credentials. By matching email addresses, mobile phone numbers, IP addresses, advertisers can identify who you are and where you live. Superimposed upon this system is a network of data brokers who buy and sell data from online companies and assemble disparate pieces of data into a profile of individuals that undoubtedly include you. There is hardly any regulation of this data ecosystem. For an example, read the linked New York Times articles on data apps and the data they provide and respond to the questions below.
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- Do you find any of these particular practices to be ethically questionable? What are those practices?
- Why do you think these practices are unethical using one of the ethical theories in your toolkit?
- Are you surprised or alarmed that so much of your personal data is available in this ecosystem?
- Do you think the system ought to be changed to eliminate these practices and, if so, what changes would you suggest