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UCI Economics The Marketing Landscape Discussion

UCI Economics The Marketing Landscape Discussion



This week, we are learning the definition of marketing, along with understanding how the concept has evolved, the value marketing provides, and planning for marketing. 

Consider the following question: 

Do you believe it is ethical for marketers to use data collected on websites and social media about consumer digital behavior where consumer permission has been provided  to better target relevant communication?  Provide one example of when it would be ethical and one example of when it would not be ethical.

And 2 replies:

1. It is ethical if customers agree to share their data collected on websites and social media. It helps customers access their interested products a lot easier without redundant and time-consuming searching online. For example, some e-commerce websites will ask users if they want to accept cookies, which is used for personalized suggestion, remembering cart content, any account information, and so on in order to provide a better user experience. In this case, with the customer’s agreement, using the collected data is ethical and brings more benefits.

However, there can be unethical use of collected data without any permission and used for even illegal purposes. One example that is very popular among the Chinese community is Weee, an online grocery shopping mobile application. Without obtaining permission and notifying users, they sell customer’s personal information including name, phone number, email, and card information to third-party. It causes a lot of users to receive spam texts and emails continuously and threats their card security. Additionally, some websites also collect online user behavior data through search engines. I often see some websites display the products that I have searched for or viewed as ads on their websites, which is very annoying, and I do not know exactly where they obtained the information so I cannot protect by data.

2. The ultimate goal of marketing is to gain more customers and keep existing customers. In order to do that, some companies do approaches that are hard to determine whether is ethical or unethical. In the case of using collected user data, I believe that using it for content recommendation within the platform is ethical, but selling it to other platforms is unethical.

For example, social media like TikTok or Instagram collect personal information of users including age, location, gender, nationality, and more. They also track the interest of users by analyzing their activities on the platform. These social media use that information and make portrayals of users, then recommend content users would like to make users spend more time on them, and become more loyal. I personally think this is ethical because users give platforms permission to use their information, and users do get what they want. Everyone on TikTok could find videos they like, and everyone on Instagram can discover their favored celebrities.

On the other hand, if the platforms sell or exchange users’ information with other organizations, it is a violation of privacy and very unethical. For example, someone has been watching pregnancy-related content on a platform, and this information could be easily sold to companies that sell baby products. Those companies might start to call, text, and email ads to the user’s home, which would disturb his or her normal life. This is unethical, from my point of view.

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