Blog Post

Privacy and Ethics: The Big Debate

Privacy and Ethics: The Big Debate

For this blog post, I looked at the app Hooked, which is an app that restaurants use to promote daily deals and specials that they offer. The first line of the Privacy Policy is "In general, we collect Personal Information that you submit to us voluntarily through Hooked." I feel like this is not a common thing that many apps say in their Privacy Policy. The wording of the sentence threw me off a little bit, but it makes 100% sense. We are voluntarily giving these apps our information through using them, so there is no reason to complain when a company uses your data for their personal benefit. The word “voluntarily” just made me think a little bit. Nobody is making me use Hooked or give them my information, I am willingly letting them have it. Without people’s willingness to share information with companies like Hooked, these apps wouldn’t function as well and we would have less trendy apps like Hooked that get us free stuff. Three things that I see that the app collects are information about me and my friends who use Hooked from any social network you may have connected from, my address and phone number (if I win a contest or sweepstakes), and Cookies to gather information about my visit to a restaurant. The only one of these three things Hooked collects that makes me a little uneasy is the information from social networks. One of my biggest fears since joining social media is apps and websites posting on my Facebook or Twitter for me. This has led to me be extremely cautious with the links I click on Facebook and websites I visit in general. Every time I click on a “sketchy” link because I think it is interesting, I rigorously check my social media profiles to see if any damage was done. I would hate to see Hooked post on my Facebook feed “Charlie Betts just used Hooked to get free food at McDonald’s!” two times a week, which would probably lead to some concerning comments about my eating habits from my Facebook friends. Luckily, Hooked does that do this (or hasn’t done it in the time I have had the app) so I can live without fear of my eating habits being exposed to the world.

Obviously, this information will be useful to Hooked so they can promote and improve their app. They use the data to show businesses that if they promote deals with Hooked, their sales will go up. I have had the app for about five months, and the amount of restaurants using Hooked has almost doubled since I started using it. They also use this information to see what deals people are using the most and what deals are not being used as often, which in turn can help restaurants with their promotions and business. If there is a deal that only, let’s say, 200 people have used in the past three weeks, Hooked doesn’t want that deal clogging up their app. The information they gather from me and other users helps them see which deals are popular and allows them to make informed decisions on what deals to keep promoting.

I feel like it is ethical for them to gather this data even though I didn't read the Privacy Policy beforehand. I feel like in this day and age, everyone who downloads an app knows that there is something in the terms and conditions that will collect data on them- it comes with the technology that we live with. Like I said before, there is no reason for someone to complain when an app or a company uses information that they are VOLUNTARILY giving away for the company’s own purpose. The terms and conditions are there to be read, but if you are too lazy to read them, then that’s your own fault. I know this seems a bit harsh but it is the truth. Most of society today spends way too much time trying to blame others and complain for their own ignorance. Therefore, I don't think that this should be considered hacking. We know what we are getting ourselves into when we download the app and we shouldn't be mad when the app uses our information. However, I do believe that apps and companies should be required to make a brief overview or summary of important parts of their terms and conditions. This would enable people to understand what they are getting themselves into when they hit the “download app” button. Although it might deter some people from downloading certain apps, it would definitely help quiet the debate over the ethics of apps using a person’s information. Nobody wants to read the pages on pages of terms and conditions, so a short summation of key information would help consumers be more informed of what the app actually does.

It depends on the situation. If it something drastic or important that I feel needs to be leaked, then yes I would. Otherwise, I do not think that it is worth it to live in asylum in Russia just to tell some people you found some stuff. I like my life here in the United States, so it has to be something extremely important for me to risk having to leave here. Some people feel like it is their civic duty to let everyone know what they find; I, for one, am not one of those people. It is an interesting debate; on one hand you have the people who support these hackers for doing their “civic duty” and on the other you have people who reprimand them for “treason”. This is definitely the first time I have heard the words “civic duty” and “hacking” in the same sentence, but I guess that is just the day and age we live in. I am not a person who likes to stir up and create drama for myself, so I probably wouldn’t leak anything unless it put me, my family, my friends, or my country at extreme risk.

I think it was ethical to hack this data in the first place. In today's world there are so many ways and methods to hide things, so hacking is one of the only ways of uncovering the truth about corrupt people. Although the Panama Papers hackers obtained the information in an illegal way, I do not think they should or will be punished. They uncovered something very important that we needed to know. However, I do think it is fair to put people on trial for the information found about them through the hackers, although I think it will be a very difficult case to pursue. I believe that the defendants will push for the whole "stolen information" thing and get out of it, but what do I know. It is a relatively new debate and I am very interested to see where it goes and what it leads to (if anything). If I were these hackers, I would be very cautious as to what and who I “hack” next. Attacking political figures and big businessmen is a very dangerous thing because you never know how much power they have. These hackers are certainly walking a very fine line at the moment.

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