Q. Should Internet users be concerned about the privacy of their personal information while online?
With this background, we turn to the question at hand: " Should Internet users be concerned about the privacy of their personal information while online? " Clearly, the corporation with which a user is interacting dictates the amount of privacy that an end user retains. Similarly, the user must decide exactly which information they want to share and weigh a potential compromise of their personal privacy against the benefits of the services and good provided by corporation via the Internet. What types of compromises are possible? The list is lengthy, but some of the most notable are identity theft and credit card fraud. Both of these misuses can take place when sensitive personal information is given to a malicious party. The repercussions of a privacy violation, however, may not be as severe, for example, with an email listing of all consumers, a given corporation could send an obscene amount of spam, causing a significant inconvenience to numerous end users.
Q. What responsibilities do corporations have to protect user's private information?
A. As has been discussed in the answer to the previous question, it is clear from the current state of legislation that most of the protection of sensitive user information is granted by corporate privacy policies. Although the Better Business Bureau, TRUSTe, and other corporations are working to solidify the content of online privacy policies, many web sites still fail to obtain certification. Because current legislation has been outlined in depth on the legislation page, we will omit an additional discussion here except to say that there are not many legal restrictions that dictate how a user's personal information be used.
Q. Many users fear that corporations work to obscure privacy policies either by the language they choose or the location they are placed on the web site. Is this reasonable?
Q. Most privacy policies maintain a clause stating that they can be changed at any time. Is this reasonable?
Thus clearly, like all of the other ethical questions raised so far, the question of the clause that allows a corporation to reserve the right to change their policy at any time, is a double-edged sword. End users must not require corporations to lock themselves in corners allowing no room for growth, but at the same time, corporations must not misuse such policies in order to profit from sensitive personal information.
* Some might argue that this is perhaps a short-sighted view as many corporations with whom users interact offline (e.g. health care providers, banks, etc.) are moving services online and thus corresponding sensitive information will be accessible online as well. Although this is true to some extent, we have chosen to focus this report on those services that an end user actively chooses to purchase a service or good.