Respect The Trust That People Give You.
I am thinking about this because I was just reading an article from PCWorld Daily News about all the information that Facebook keeps. Apparently, FB maintains a large dossier on all users which includes all of your messages (even the ones you delete), who you poke, who you friend or un-friend, your location, the events you post and the ones you say you will attend, who you have chatted with, and on and on. The article did not indicate how long the data is stored for, but my guess is a very long time. What is even more disturbing is that in the United States, there is no legal obligation for Facebook to disclose to you, a private citizen, what information they have on you.
To me, there are some serious ethical questions that really need to be examined here. I, however, am not the smartest cookie in the shed and leave such debates up to greater minds. That said, I am a business owner and all business owners in this Information Age are presented with the temptations of abusing a system and, basically, taking advantage of people’s trust and/or ignorance in pursuit of competitiveness.
I say “ignorance” because most people who use a computer connected to the Internet haven’t the faintest idea what is going on. It’s like a car (I use this analogy a lot for technology): everyone has one but very few know how it works outside of turning it on and driving to their destination…… and it would seem that a lot of people aren’t even very good at that. When something goes wrong, you take it to a mechanic and they could tell you that the fuel ionizer differential was busted and you wouldn’t know any different. (I don’t think that is a real car part). The Internet, just like cars, has thousands of “moving parts” and the smallest percentage of the population knows that they even exist. They simply TRUST that everything will be okay.
This issue of privacy on the Internet has been debated for several years now and is likely to be debated for many more. But, fundamentally, when a person gives you information by typing and submitting or simply visiting your site, they are, whether they know it or not, trusting that the information will not be abused. As business owners we all have to decide where we will draw the line. I, for one, have given this topic much thought and believe that there are ethical and appropriate ways that we as businesses can use people’s information, and then there are wicked ways. The first thing that I think we all should do is to simply respect the trust that people give you.