Nowadays, due to the rapid development of modernized society, business organizations actively deploy social media to target their audience. Although such tendencies allow them to reach a new level of promotion strategies, they are not devoid of drawbacks. Among these flaws, one can find the problem of manipulating the consumers’ choices through profiling the specific groups and its moral. Although it is more of a practical issue, it still poses a significant challenge in the field of ethics since companies unavoidably deal with personal information. Thus, it is necessary to analyze the root of the problem to determine the core of moral breakdown and the questions revolving around it.
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Ethical Breakdown Nature
There are several moral components that can make the nature of ethical breakdown understandable. Firstly, one must mention the violation of ethical norms characteristic to the companies themselves. According to Leetaru, the case of Cambridge Analytica using profile information from the Facebook platforms demonstrates the breach of “accepted societal norms over the use of Facebook data.” As a result, the business ethics of the companies themselves become questionable since they do not adhere to their own rules. Although such a course of action is usually presented as an accident, it still does not correspond to the basics of business ethics.
Secondly, a more critical problem can arise if the misuse turns out to be intentional. It is possible to note that Facebook occasionally tends to reveal private information to interested parties (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell 293). The scandals around Cambridge Analytica and similar cases showcase that target manipulation through profiling management appear to be a regular business tactic. While it is undeniable that tools of business should be modernized to fit into the current market, it remains doubtful whether personal data manipulation is morally acceptable. After all, social media pages contain a certain degree of information vital to the user, and leaking it to second parties serves as a breach of personal life.
Ethically Questionable Matters
If it comes to the personal questioning of ethical issues, it is necessary to emphasize several dilemmas. Firstly, as mentioned, companies may intentionally violate the borders of privacy to reach higher results. So, one should ask if the similarity to the “end justifies the means” principle plays a role in the case. Manipulation strategies have always been a crucial part of marketing, regardless of the circumstances. However, the scandals happened due to the lack of the customers’ opinion or consent. The events prove that their interests are cast aside in favor of the company’s agendas, despite the declarations of caring about customers’ well-being. Hence, the principle of the end justifying the means is hardly reasonable if the customers show their discontent on the data breach and its consequences.
Secondly, one also contemplates the issue of trust between the company and the customer. By inserting personal data into the profile, the customer places a certain level of confidence in the company — the level it should live up to. The breakdown of trust both makes the customer less faithful and damages the image of the company. Thus, to cooperate, both sides should openly bargain about the use of profile data. In that case, the customers would feel protected, and the companies would be able to improve the marketing without intrusion in personal information.
Leetaru, Kalev. “The Problem Isn’t Cambridge Analytica: It’s Facebook.” Forbes. 2018, Web.
Ferrell, O.C., Fraedrich, John, and Ferrell, Linda. Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making & Cases. 10th ed., Cengage Learning, 2015.
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