Information Ethics, Possession and Privateness: The Hidden Social Contract

Marketers can own data about other people and use it for promotional purposes, but there are limits to what can be used and how.

There are all of these “you own your information” movements going on, and it’s a very righteous concept, but it’s wrong. You don’t really have your own data. However, this is not all-inclusive; You have some rights to certain data, but they do not replace the rights of other people.

Consumer data is in great demand with businesses, and many businesses are willing to spend a pretty penny on that consumer information. In fact, for marketers, more data means better insights to target users with their advertisements. As a result, U.S. digital advertising spend hit $ 190.43 billion in 2021, up 14.3% from the previous year when spending hit just $ 165.81 billion. By 2022, U.S. digital ad spend is expected to grow another 19.7% and top the $ 200 billion mark for the first time influenced on social media when shopping after the pandemic. (2) But there is only one problem: So many consumers believe they have their own personal information and concerns about personal rights violations are irrelevant.

“It’s got all of these ‘your information belongs’ movements going on, and it’s a very sincere concept, but it’s wrong. You don’t really have your own data. However, this is not all-inclusive; You have some rights to certain data, but they do not replace the rights of anyone else, ”said Sky Cassidy, CEO of Mountaintop Data.

Marketers can own data about other people and use it for promotional purposes, but there are limits to what can be used and how. Cassidy explains that in order to compete successfully in today’s marketplace, it is wise to collect and use only the information you need in order to provide the best possible service to the consumer. A recent McKinsey survey of North American consumers found that around half of consumers surveyed are more likely to trust a company that only requests information that is relevant to the products they sell or that requires limited amounts of personal information. 3) One reason to limit the amount of information collected from customers is to not violate their privacy. Cassidy gives a fairly well-known example involving the Target retail store. In 2012, the New York Times spoke to Target statistician Andrew Pole about how he used the company’s computers to analyze data that gave a “pregnancy prediction” score that estimated what stage it was the customer was pregnant based on recent shopping habits. The article told an anecdotal story to show that the targeting was too precise at one point: the store allegedly sent out baby clothing coupons to a pregnant teenage girl, which is how her father became aware of her pregnancy. (4)

Cassidy addresses the fact that some companies are allowed to have information, but laws prohibit them from sharing it. For example, what you tell your doctor or therapist should remain confidential under HIPPA laws. Your doctor can’t tell anyone that you are diabetic, but if you subscribe to a diabetic magazine, marketers can use this information to target you in their advertisements. But when it comes to data ethics, the biggest breach of all is when someone takes your personal information and uses it for their own financial gain.

Many consumers owe their confusion about data ownership to various state and national laws such as HIPPA. The United States does not have a single data protection and data protection law that covers all of its different states, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union (EU). This simplifies data protection laws for companies that act on them as they have a definition of personal data and a set of rules regarding data protection, responding to data breaches, etc. (4)

However, the US could be heading for a national law similar to the GDPR. Cassidy states that he doesn’t like GDPR as a law because it removes the ability for marketers to create an opt-out list. Hence, the default for everyone is that no one can have or use your information. He agrees to California law that contains similar concepts – the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). “People don’t have the right to tell someone to forget you. It’s anti-capitalist and makes things incredibly difficult. ”

However, the CCPA has more balance, according to Cassidy. It gives people the option to opt out of advertising certain products or services, but this is not the “default” setting. You will be on a marketer’s list but can easily remove yourself. Besides California, Virginia and Colorado are the only other states in the US that currently have extensive data protection laws. Although the laws vary slightly between the three states, the basic idea is that companies need to let consumers know that they are selling their data. Consumers have control over whether their personal data is deleted or moved. Consumers can choose whether or not to agree to it, and they also have the option to access, delete, correct or move their data. Other states have laws that cover specific aspects of privacy, such as the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), but there is concern about the risk of too many state laws confusing both businesses and consumers. (5)

This mystery begs the question of how companies can ensure that the data they buy is legal and ethical. Cassidy advises companies to speak to multiple data providers and thoroughly review them all by asking questions that provide some insight into their legitimacy. “The easiest way to do it is to ask [the data provider] when their emails are opt-in. If they say yes, run! “Warns Cassidy, stating that” a lot of companies want to say that their email is an opt-in because they know people want to hear it. ” Additionally, Cassidy recommends companies prepare to interview potential data providers by compiling a list of insightful questions (e.g. using a list of questions, such as Ten Questions, to ask a list provider will make those troublemakers effectively check.

“When people share their information with a particular company for a specific purpose, it should only be used for that purpose. If a company doesn’t do it, they’re breaking their agreement with whoever gave them the information, ”says Cassidy.

About MountainTop Data

MountainTop Data, headquartered in Los Angeles, California, has been providing data services for B2B marketing for nearly two decades. With an unrelenting commitment to quality, they were the first to guarantee the accuracy of their licensed data and business emails. They offer marketing lists, data cleansing, data appending, and data maintenance. Their data services are used by some of the world’s largest brands in a variety of different industries, from multinational telecommunications companies to office technology to public relations firms and more. Further information is available at:

1. MacRae, Duncan. “Digital advertising spending in the US will exceed the 200 billion mark by 2022.” Marketing Tech, September 13, 2021. -pass-200bn-mark-by-2022 /

2. Hilly, Lizzy. “Statistics Summary: The Impact of COVID-19 on E-Commerce.” Econsultancy, October 22, 2021.

3. Anant, Venky. Donchak, Lisa. Chaplain, James. Söller, Henning. “The opportunity for consumer data and the obligation to protect data.” McKinsey & Company, April 27, 2020. -imperative

4. Hills, Kashmir. “How Target found out a teenage girl was pregnant before her father did.” Forbes, February 16, 2012. 169bbe436668

5. Faitelson, Yaki. “Why GDPR-style US privacy laws are good for business.” Forbes, December 19, 2019. -good-for-business /? sh = 68432cb98756

6. Klosowski, Thorin. “The State of Consumer Privacy Laws in the US (and Why It Matters)”. New York Times, September 6, 2021.

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