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December 04, 2006

PAPA - Assignment for Dec. 4th

The PAPA framework is particularly relevant to the WSJ.com article on consumer information. The main theme of the article is the way in which online retailers have begun offering different offers and promotions to customers based on information gathered about them, in hopes of more effectively meet the customers' needs. This situation involves all four aspects of PAPA: privacy, accuracy, property, and accessibility.
Of these, the most important issue is privacy. These online retailers are collecting information about their customers without their consent. What if that is information that the customer would prefer stays private? While the retailer is certainly trying to use that information to better suit the consumer's needs, what if the consumer doesn't want them to? In my opinion, the lack of consent makes this a clear violation of privacy. If the consumer wants to be helped, they should have the option to indicate so. Otherwise, they should be exempted from this practice.
Property, accuracy, and accessibility play a role in the debate as well. Who owns this information and who should be allowed to see it? What if one of these retailers decided to sell this information to another company? While using the information internally may not harm the customer, it may be distributed in ways they would not want. On top of this, what guarantee is there that the information being passed on is correct? Passing on incorrect information has a much greater potential to negatively affect the customer. If acquiring the information was a violation of privacy in the first place, passing it along to a third party is even worse.
Delving into a person's personal behavior and choices without consent should not be tolerated. While it seems that the companies mentioned in the article did not have ill intent behind their behavior, the practice is unacceptable in theory. Without safeguards protecting who uses it and in what context, there is too much room for abuse and companies should not be allowed to gather information about customers.

Posted by ptbrock at December 4, 2006 03:42 AM

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