It may not be ethical for an e-business to sell personal information, but in certain cases it's legal --- which can make it confusing to determine what's ethical. For example, the College Board legally sells information about students to colleges and universities. On the other hand, it's illegal for e-businesses to sell personal credit card and cellphone records to private investigators and even law enforcement. When the sale of personal information is misused, the effects can be devastating. This is why e-business ethical issues about selling personal information is significant.
Invasion of Privacy
Each time you sign in to a website, use your credit card online or even make an online phone call, you're generating information about yourself. Data brokers use this information to build a database of personal information, which may be an ethical issue of invasion of privacy. This data may not be reliable and can pose a threat to your lifestyle. For example, if a potential employer purchases data from an unreliable data broker, he may think that you've been convicted of a felony, which could prevent you from landing a job, even if the information is false.
In the age of e-business, identify theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. When personal information is sold and your Social Security number and credit card number end up in the hands of someone else, you can become a victim of identity theft. If the impostor commits a crime using your information, the consequences may have a lifelong impact on you.
Targeting the Vulnerable
When personal information is sold to an unscrupulous business, the information may be used unethically to target vulnerable people such as seniors. For example, if the information shows that a person is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or degenerative disease, or that he's depressed, he may be a target for solicited products from an e-business with a fake cure in the form of a lotion, pill or other drugs.
When an e-business sells its customer's personal information to be used for a demographic report, it can result in discrimination. For example, if a certain demographic group is considered to be high risk for HIV or cancer, an insurance company may increase rates to that demographic. This discrimination is considered unethical because all people should have the same rights to purchase insurance.
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