Electronic Monitoring and Privacy Issues in Business-Marketing: The Ethics of the DoubleClick Experience
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The paper examines the ethics of electronic monitoring for advertising purposes and the implications for Internet user privacy using as a backdrop DoubleClick Inc’s recent controversy over matching previously anonymous user profiles with personally identifiable information. It explores various ethical theories that are applicable to understand privacy issues in electronic monitoring. It is argued that, despite the fact that electronic monitoring always constitutes an invasion of privacy, it can still be ethically justified on both Utilitarian and Kantian grounds. From a Utilitarian perspective the emphasis must be on minimizing potential harms. From a Kantian perspective the emphasis must be on giving users complete information so that they can make informed decisions as to whether they are willing to be monitored. Considering the Internet advertising industry’s current actions, computer users and government regulators would be well advised, both practically and ethically, to move to a user control model in electronic monitoring.
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