Contemporary Social Issue In Business : The Privacy Right

            The fast progress of information technologies opens wide opportunities for their use in business. However, contemporary businesses tend to misuse available information technologies because they use them for the collection of information about customers. They use the customer analytics to understand the customer behavior and to forecast the customer behavior and preferences in the future to meet the customer needs. In such a way, they increase the customer satisfaction and their profits. On the other hand, businesses ignore a very important aspect related to the collection of the information about their customer, which is the privacy of customers. Businesses just ignore the customer privacy and violate their privacy right by collecting the information about customers, processing and using that information for their business purposes. There should be limits on businesses using purchasing behavior of customers because customers have the right to privacy, whereas businesses tend to collect the information about the customer behavior without their consent that raises the question of the violation of the customer privacy right.

            The concept of the privacy right means that individuals have the right to their private life and private matters that should not be available to the public, unless individuals give their consent to make that information public, unless existing legal norms require otherwise. The privacy right of Americans is granted by the US Constitution and is one of the fundamental rights that has to be respected. The protection of the privacy is also the responsibility of law enforcement agencies and legislatures because they have to protect Americans from the violation of their privacy right and guarantee that their privacy is protected. Otherwise, Constitutional provisions and rights granted to citizens will be simply neglected.

            At the moment, businesses collect the information about the customer behavior, customer preferences and other relevant information to conduct the in-depth analysis of the customer behavior that helps businesses to forecast customer choices and needs and to offer them what they want or to make customers want what businesses want to sell them. The collection of such information raises the problem of the violation of the customer privacy because customers do not give their consent to collect the information about their purchases and other relevant information (Khosla 220). Businesses justify the collection of this information by their routine business operations, but their information policies are still the violation of the privacy right of customers because they create profiles of their customers and collect information that customers may consider to be their private matter and they may be unwilling to uncover this information to any third parties, including businesses. For example, customers may be unwilling that the store, where they make regular or frequent purchases collected any information on their purchases and recorded that information to create their profile. In the overwhelming majority of cases, no one asks customers to give their consent on the collection of such information. Instead, businesses are doing their customer analytics, as they call, but, in its essence, they collect information about their customers that may be classified as private. For example, companies create profiles of their customers, where they collect such information as names of customers, their activities, such as purchases, and specific products which they purchased. This information is the private matter and cannot be subject to profiling.

            Moreover, this information has to be protected since the revelation of this information may be harmful for customers. However, today, businesses use widely the information analysis of the customer behavior based on purchases they make and other relevant information businesses can access to learn more about customer preferences and behavior (Schmitt & Simonson 211). They collect the information about the customer behavior as well as other information related to their customers as a part of their information policies and customer analytics. The major reason for the collection of such information is the intention of businesses to understand their customers better. Businesses justify the collection of such information by their desire to understand needs of their customers better and to forecast their behavior so that businesses could offer customers just what they really want and need. Hence, the collection of the customer-related information contributes to the higher customer satisfaction because businesses understand their customers better and offer them exactly what customers expect and want. Such customer analytics has already proved to be very efficient and companies introduce more and more advanced technologies to conduct the customer analytics and to process the information collected about customers and their behavior. This information allows companies create customer profile and to deploy successfully the personalized approach to each customer. Companies just offer their customers what they like, for example, through offering them products they buy on the regular basis at the lower price compared to other companies and customers. In such a way, businesses justify the collection of the information about their customers by their routine business activities, desire to understand their customers’ needs better and to increase the customer satisfaction, but they totally ignore the privacy of customer, as if the collection, processing and storage of the information they collect about their customers has nothing to do with the customer privacy. The problem is that the information businesses collect about their customers does have a lot to do with the customer private life and activities.

            The customer analytics based on the use of information about the customer behavior is a sort of euphemism which companies use to hide their true intention to get all the information about customers they can get, regardless of the privacy of customers. Businesses just disregard the customer privacy right, when they conduct their information analysis on the ground of the data collected about customer orders, purchases and other relevant information. Their goal is to understand the current customer behavior and to predict it in the future. As they understand and predict the customer behavior, businesses start conditioning their customers and make them choosing their products or services. At this point, it is possible to return to the case of Target and its customer analytics that help the company to trace such information as possible pregnancy of customers (Hill 4). When the customer forecasts that their customers get pregnant the company simply starts sending them messages and offers that make them to purchase products which they really need. In such a way, Target may offer products at discount price to its customers that will make customers prefer Target to other retailers. Other businesses use similar strategies that leads to the conditioning of the behavior of customers through the use of the private information of customers. At any rate, the information about pregnancy of customers is the private matter and the revelation of that information to the third parties may be harmful for customers (Viardot 104). If any information breaches occur, this information may become available to the third parties. For example, if information breaches occur in Target and its pregnancy identification program, then pregnant customers may face serious problems, if employers receive the information about the pregnancy of its employee, they may refuse from their promotion, even if they planned it because employers become aware that their employees will not be able to perform functions they want them to perform because of their pregnancy (Marr 7). This example shows how vulnerable customers become, when businesses neglect their privacy and collect the information about customers and their behavior.

            The customer analytics becomes the tool of obtaining information customers may be unwilling to uncover to the third parties. Nevertheless, as a rule, businesses do not even inform their customers that they collect data about their behavior, their purchases, their demographic information, and other information that businesses consider to be relevant to them. In such a situation, customers do not only have any opportunities to grant their consent to collect the information about their behavior, but also they are not aware that the information about them is collected by businesses. They do not even know what specific information businesses collect about them. As a result, businesses collect the information about customers and fail to respect the privacy right of their customers that makes customers unprotected in regard to their privacy.

            Thus, current practices widely-used by businesses concerning the collection of the information about customers and their behavior represent a serious threat to the privacy of customers, while the revelation of that private information to the third parties may cause substantial harm to customers. In such a situation, the legal regulation of the customer analytics and information collection conducted by businesses is needed (Tabachnick & Fidell 152). The progress of technologies and focus of businesses on the information collection makes such legal changes particularly important today because businesses can collect more information about customers than they have ever could before. The protection of the privacy should be still the priority for legislators and law enforcement agencies, while businesses have to learned to respect the customer privacy and distinguish their business interests from the interference in the private life of customers.

Works Cited:

Khosla, S. Consumer psychology: The essence of Marketing, International Journal of Educational Administration. 2 (2), 2010, 220–220.

Hill, K. How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did, Forbes, 2012.  Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/#3b8853636668

Marr, M. Big Data: A Game Changer In The Retail Sector, Forbes, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/11/10/big-data-a-game-changer-in-the-retail-sector/#4c5b24d99f37

Schmitt, B. and Simonson, A. In Marketing Aesthetics: The strategic management of brands, identity, and image, New York: The Free Press, 2007.

Tabachnick, B.G. & Fidell, L.S. Using Multivariate Statistics, Fifth Edition. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. / Allyn and Bacon, 2007.

Viardot, E. Successful Marketing Strategy for High-Tech Firms. New York: New Publishers, 2011.

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[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

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