GMU Ethics of Google Company Questions Discussion

Question Description

The discussion paper must be at least two pages in length (double-spaced, 12-inch Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins).

Consider the case of Google:

Google has pioneered technology for understanding its users through the integration of its many services. Once logged into Gmail, a user can easily move to Google’s internet search, file storage, photo hosting service, etc. As the user utilizes all of these services, it enables Google to build a profile of the user by analyzing the user’s activity across different platforms. This profile is then used to create targeted advertising for the user. Thus, Google’s “free” services are essentially financed by the collection of personal information.
Users typically expect that some of Google’s services, such as email & file storage, provide them with full control over personal information, but this is not the case. It was recently disclosed that Google mines the data in users’ email messages, which is then used to target advertisements on Google’s search engine. Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices allows the company to track an individual’s geographic location (which is linked to the user’s profile, unless you choose to opt-out). While Google created some privacy settings, it then went on to develop technology that circumvents these settings when it comes to tracking downloads on the Google Play media service and video selections on YouTube (owned by Google).

1) Which theory (Non-Intrusion, Non-Interference, Information Control, Situational, or Contextual Integrity) do you think offers the best theory of privacy? Why? What makes it the best?
2) In general, do you think Google’s activities and the structure of its products/services constitutes a violation of users’ privacy? Why or why not?
3) Which theory of privacy justifies your view? How does it justify that view?
4) Which ethical theory (Utilitarianism, Deontology, or both) best justifies your view? How does it justify that view?

Prof. Angela


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