Tracking User Data: An Ethical Dilemma

The Ethics Battle

Tracking user data becomes easier and easier as technology evolves. With tools such as Google Analytics, companies have access to specific data about consumers that would never be shared otherwise. With this, ethical concerns are raised about the collection and usage of this data. These concerns mainly revolve around intrusions on user privacy and the unconsented use of personal information. Although this data can be controversial, companies should not stray away from its usage. Using this data allows companies to interact with users in ways that can benefit both parties. Below highlights why this data is beneficial for companies and users and how a user can protect themselves from their data being obtained.

Companies Can Track Results

With the data available for digital campaigns and marketing, it would be foolish not to use it. With this data, results can now be more specific than ever before. Instead of completing intense data collection from different demographics, companies now have it all at the tip of their fingers. Also, much of this data is free! Two great free tracking tools are Google Analytics and Google Ads. The only requirement for an account is a Gmail account. Companies also have the opportunity to create different campaigns for each of their demographics interests. This saves companies a large sum of money also, as they no longer need to invest money into tracking their marketing efforts.

Of course, the information is intrusive, however, there are many safeguards as to the information that companies can obtain. One of these includes consent to use webpage cookies. All users consent to it being obtained when they click onto a webpage and/or when they sign up for a social media site. Some websites themselves give users the option to consent. However, most assume consent was given when logging into the site. Highlighted below is more on the user protection process.

Users Can Decide What is Given… To an Extent

Cookies allow users to protect their information on websites. Cookies follow users from website to website. The best example of cookies at work is when a product searched on another site appears on the next browsed site. In short, cookies are how sensitive data is obtained from visitors. Disable cookies if there are concerns over the use of this data. Another solution could be to browse in incognito mode. Incognito mode does not allow sites to obtain or share cookies from their users. However, incognito mode does not save search history, making it harder to recall pages in the future.

It is much harder for users to protect themselves while on social media. Social media obtains user data mainly from the post users like/share. However, there are a few ways users can protect themselves. For example, users can turn off location services to protect themselves more from unsolicited marketing. Also, it is optional on most social media sites to give metrics such as age, gender, and phone numbers. Although these metrics are optional to give, platforms can still figure them out with user engagement and interaction. With the state of social media, it is nearly impossible to prevent the tracking of sensitive data.

Tracking User Data Benefits Both Parties

By using the data available today, neither party is wasting their time. Since advanced data is available on each user/viewer demographics, companies can better tailor their campaigns to each audience. With this, the user is being shown ads that are interesting and relevant to them. In addition, some users will attest that some of the best products/brands they have found have come via ads. Although it might be “creepy” for users, obtaining advanced user data is a practice that is beneficial to all in the long run. Also, there are different ways users can prevent companies from “watching them”. Companies are with their right when they obtain sensitive data from users. However, companies must find the line where data collection should not take place.

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