As we have taken a closer look at Google Analytics, we have seen the amount of our information that is tracked. All of this information is tracked by cookies. Not the delicious kind that grandma makes, but the cookie data like demographics, location, source (where you came from), and your marketing interests. This information “follows” you from website to website through your web browser.
The ability to use this information for marketing purposes, is very important. To answer the ethics questions of people’s information being tracked and used is a personal issue. I do believe that there are ethical and unethical ways to follow ones every move.
When websites ask if they can track your cookies, then I believe it is more ethical than if they use your information but do not as permission. Many websites do not allow you to continue using their site if you deny cookies.
The internet is everywhere nowadays. Even in our refrigerators. With the internet being so easily accessible nowadays, consumers can find what they want at extreme speeds. Although it’s a positive to find whatever you want, it’s viewed pretty negatively that these companies have such easy access to your information. The question remains though; is tracking consumer behavior ethical?
How do they track information?
Through Google Analytics, companies are easily able to get consumer information. They can view page views, time spent, and where users are clicking. Companies use this info to see what is popular and what is not. They are able to access this info through your “cookies”; personal data from your device. Cookies track usernames, user preferences, and your location.
Is it ethicaI?
Is tracking consumer behavior ethical? On one hand, companies are able to use your info to market to their target audiences effectively. Often times, however, companies collect your info without consent. Over time, they take data from frequent users to create profiles to market directly to you. This is a big issue to many as it’s very invasive.
Imagine your shopping on a new online website, and the first thing that pops up is is to accept or deny something called cookies. But not a warm sweet treat to enjoy, but a data program to collect your information. The question is, should you do it or not, and if you do what happens?
What does Tracking Behavior mean?
Every website that you have frequently visited, or even purchased from has tracked a portion of your information. However, they couldn’t have done it without you. Websites have to ask your permission to record your information.
In order to collect your information, a website owner has to install a web analytics program to its website, like Google Analytics, for example. Then the magic begins.
Analytics doesn’t exactly take down the name and address of its users. It’s identified from a person’s unique computer or device, through cookies.
Cookies and how it works
Cookies is a packet of data that a computer receives. It helps keep track of consumer activity on the site and track their activity.
Cookies are also really useful because they can store your personal information, like your login or credit card history. However, should people allow cookies to do this?
Most times everyone says yes, it’s really helpful and it can help the consumer save time, but consumers often fear that they are then tracking all of their information. That being said, is it ethical?
Ethical or Unethical?
I think that under most circumstances tracking user behavior is ethical. It’s when they start sharing your information with third parties when they cross that line.
It’s partially up to the consumer to even allow for companies to take their information, so it’s a shared responsibility. Users also have the ability at any time to delete cookies from their web browser. So taking these factors into consideration, I would say that it is ethical under normal circumstances to track user behavior.
Digital marketing experts track their user behavior in order to collect data of their customers interests and buying habits. Because of this practice, people have begun to question whether it is ethical for companies to track their actions. In my own thoughts, I believe this issue can be partially ethical and unethical.
Tracking Behavior is Ethical
Tracking a consumer’s online behavior can be ethical when the activity is restricted to the company’s website. If the company is tracking their website’s data, then they are within their boundaries to track the activity happening on their webpage. Collecting user data, in this case, can be useful to the company when they update their content. The company can see which pages of their website are being visited the most by consumers when tracking activity. With the data collected, marketing executives can figure out how to edit other parts of the website so more people will click through. The pages would then resemble the most popular page and could collect more clicks from consumers.
Tracking Behavior is Unethical
In other cases, it is unethical for companies to continue tracking their customers internet actions after they have left the company’s website. Whatever the customer searches on google, or whatever websites they visit next, the company has no right to continue tracking. Customer activity on other websites is not the business of the company and therefore should be swiftly ignored. It’s an invasion of privacy and should be illegal, as it could put the consumers information at risk. The internet is not always a safe place and information that the company is tracking can fall into the wrong hands. The company should only track their website if they choose to do so. If they do track they need to make the customer aware.
These reasons determine whether tracking customer behavior is ethical or unethical.
Everyone has encountered cookies before. No, not the sweet but dangerous baked goods. We are talking about the kind found on websites and browsers. Users who don’t really look into the meaning of cookies, probably don’t realize just how large of an impact they serve. For those who know exactly what they consist of, the realization can be daunting. Therefore, one question is prompted. Is it ethical for companies to be using cookies and accessing private information for their own benefit?
Benefits for the User
Firstly, it is wrong to assume cookies only benefit the companies using them. Cookies can also benefit the user. They allow a more personalized experience on the web. Content is catered to you and your interests. Ads that pertain to recent searches and websites will be shown. Did you just look at a product on Amazon? You can expect to see that same product, and similar ones, in a banner ad on other websites. Yes, some people don’t like this and feel as if it is invasive. However, some people enjoy this one of a kind experience. Secondly, there is an option to say no to cookies. Continuously clear out the cookies and cache data if at all uncomfortable. The choice is yours, so use it.
Benefits for the Company
The existence of cookies is to help companies or organizations gain information about the users who interact with them. Yes, as mentioned above it benefits the users in some ways as well. However, we cannot forget why they are being used. The personal information kept within the cookie is invaluable. It gives you a sense of your audience without having to ask everyone their demographics. For example, cookies know genders, age, location, device, etc. The list goes on and on. Scary? Yes. Will it change? No. In short, cookies help companies understand who their audience is very easily. The effectiveness and efficiency is too good to pass up.
The Ethical Summary
As a result, get used to the question “Allow Cookies?”. That is not going to be going away anytime soon. Ethical boundaries will continue to be pushed. How far will we let them go?
If a company asks you for information and you enter it they now have the right to that information. This is because they aren’t allowed to track personal information and usually you give them it. That is where their permission with this stops though. I think its fair game for companies to make personalized profiles of their customers as most likely they had to buy the information. Most big companies don’t buy data from other companies rather they make it worth the customers worthwhile by other locking features until you fill out a form. When doing this you have said that you are ok with this company having this information for a sale or feature.The key there being the company not other companies for me this is unethically so wrong for a company to do.
The worst example of unethical tracking is phone companies and it has the biggest impact on citizens. Since phones were sold and yellow-pages were made telemarketing has exploded into annoying more and more customers every year. While this seems to be just annoying telemarketing has gone from selling products to what seems to be now just scamming people by gaining trust with their personal information. I’ve received calls telling me the make model and color of my car from scammers talking about some warranty. The main reason for this is your information isn’t a physical property which means a company can sell it to whoever and how many times they want. This makes it very easy for a company to pull your name from a car company and phone number from Verizon and now they have made a believable argument for a scam. Maybe they don’t get a sale or it doesn’t work no problem for them they just sell the information on again and still make money. Information is like a tweet it costs nothing to share and only anything to gain from it.
Upon hearing the word “cookie” most people think of the delicious treats their mother used to make when they were a kid. Digital cookies are far from their real-world counterpart, and are used to track data about an internet user’s habits and preferences. For this reason, as any digital marketer can tell you, digital cookies are the subject of a complex debate regarding internet security and privacy.
So what is the debate?
Some internet users feel that it is unethical for websites to examine cookie data to learn more about anyone who visits their site. The companies typically use this information to collect metrics about their audience and then use this information to optimize the site to fit the people visiting their site. For example, if a company learns that most of their traffic is from mobile devices, they know that they should focus on making their site mobile-friendly to improve the user experience
I believe that collecting user data and reading visitor cookie data is ethical as long as the site alerts the user that they collect cookie information. This way, it gives the user the ability to opt out if they feel they don’t want the site to have access to their information. If the company does not make it clear what type of data they are collecting or even tell the user they are collecting data I believe that they are not ethically trying to collect information.
Facebook knows more about you than your own mother. Seriously. As a matter of fact, even before the age of user data, catalogs from department stores were accurately predicting which consumers were pregnant before they could even report this sensitive information to their families. By law, users don’t have possession of their own data, and this is part of the dilemma. What happens when a corporation you don’t even trust knows just about everything about you? Is this good, bad, or somewhere in between?
If you were to ask me, the defense of user data for purchase from the highest bidder is an increasingly dangerous game, which has even started to affect our electoral politics in the United States. Foreign nations or just even the U.S. Government has to ask permission for this data from these corporations. They can purchase it, buy their own ad space like they are regular companies, and from there do what they will. If you’re like me, that’s cause for real concern.
On the other hand, the defense for companies owning their users’ privacy in lieu of digital marketing is a shallow argument for me. I say this for two reasons:
The important thing is the trust from the consumer, and sketchy companies with loads of user data and resources to exploit them don’t aid in user trust for consumer longevity.
Even before the digital age companies with vast resources had the ability to use consumer’s own psychology against them: it’s the very same set of tactics that created foundational advertising techniques.
So to conclude, even if you rightly understand that user data makes things easier for the consumer, it may still be a serious cause for other concerns in the long-run.
The ethics of tracking is a controversial topic amongst people from all over the world. When it comes to privacy and information security, businesses such as Apple are making it a main mission to preserve this valuable information and keep it in the hands of the consumer. They are pro privacy. However, other businesses such as Facebook are all about data sharing and collecting. They are not afraid to push the boundaries of data collection. What makes the topic of ethics so difficult to understand is that every person has a different idea as to what is ethical and what is not. One person’s idea of an ethical approach could be completely different from someone else’s idea of an ethical approach. Due to this uncertainty, I look to the process companies take to decide whether their actions are ethical or not. In most cases, I do believe it is ethical to know and track user behavior.
Is Tracking Ethical?
Cookies is a topic I am very mixed about. I personally do not view cookies as an ethical way of tracking and learning information about online users. I did not know about cookies until a few years after I had first begun using the internet. As a kid, I willingly accepted anything and was unaware companies were tracking me via the websites I visited. I think in this scenario, I was undereducated. There are a lot of sites nowadays that blatantly state whether a website allows cookies or not, so it is important to pay attention to things like that.
The more information we give our computers and to online stores the more they are able to track users’ search history. Many variables go into account if companies should be able to fully track the search history and the interests of consumers.
Google Analytics is a platform that gives companies information that gives them the ability to track user data. Google anaylytics tracks session duration, pages per session, and bounce rate of individuals. This gives comapnies signifanct amount of information that allows them to track their audiences behavior. This is where ethics comes into play and puts the pressue on the business to use this information ethically. Ethical behavior would include giving consumers interest specific ads and discounts, giving them options to revisit your site, and also giving them updates via text message or email.
Simple Yes or No
One way to ensure what your business is doing is ethical, you can give the consumer a simple option if they would like to have their data tracked to give them a more personal experience on your site. By giving users the option to choose, it allows them to be aware that you use Google Analytics to give them a better idea of their interests to speed up their time on the site.