Marketing decisions are driven increasingly by analytics produced from massive amounts of consumer data. Think about the information that is captured when you shop online or post on social media. While this information is very helpful to marketers, it also comes with a host of challenges.
A Facebook study in 2012 sparked criticism from the media and users when researchers from Facebook and Cornell University manipulated the news feeds of nearly 700,000 Facebook users for a week to gauge whether emotions spread on social media. The research finding was that users who saw more positive posts tended to write more positive posts themselves. Those results were interesting and helpful to marketers using social media. However, Facebook admitted that the study may have included users younger than 18. The company said it had revised its guidelines since the research was conducted; proposed studies now undergo three internal reviews, including one centered on privacy for user data.
The incident shines a light on how marketers tap the vast amount of data created online. Internet companies, including Facebook and Google, routinely test adjustments to their sites. These changes include prompts to users to click on more links, or more advertisements, which are the companies’ main source of revenue.
The trade-offs between marketing information and consumers privacy are likely to be a strongly debated issue in the decade ahead. Use the ethical decision-making framework to answer the following questions in a 2 page paper.
What are the major ethical issues surrounding Facebook’s study? Who are the affected stakeholders? How will those stakeholders be affected?
Reviewing this case years later, monitor and assess the quality of Facebook’s decision.
As a consumer, how do you personally feel about the information that is captured about you and used to market products to you? Do your feelings affect your online buying behavior?