ITGS Syllabus

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Topic 53

Issues related to the selling of data stored in databases by Kent Harvath

Commercial data brokers have been selling many private data to numerous government agencies, marketing companies, and employers. The innovation in informational technology has promoted and expanded this market. Computer data bases has made it better at storing and managing a larger amount of data and the internet has made it easier to trade data and new brokers to join the market. Apparently there are ethical problems related to this selling of private information.

The kind of information data brokers sell includes home addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, phone records, occupation, things purchased especially over net, crime records, and so on. Brokers in black markets trade data that was supposed to “not be used for other use” or data that’s much more private. This kind of data includes customer information that could comprise of credit card numbers. Private data is useful in many ways such as for direct marketing by phones or mails or for grasping the background information of potential employees. This is usually where senders of those junk mails and junk e-mails and possibly junk phones get people’s information.

There are many problems related to the personal information data base. Of those one of the most concerned is mistaken data. In one case, a man called Ron Peterson was recorded as a female prostitute in In another case, a man who had committed a small crime of stealing was mistakenly recorded as having done a felony sentenced for 7 years in prison in the data base of a commercial data broker called Checkpoint. He never got a good job for this for thirty years until he asked one employer the reason for not hiring him and found out the truth. According to the president of, any data broker hardly distinguishes different people with same names.

Most of them even treat individuals with similar names as one person. The thing is that you never know how you are recorded in data bases unless you buy them yourself and check them. If it is wrong, the change is only made if you tell them the mistake. Also, even if the data base is corrected, all other data bases that you may no even know of may still have the wrong information. It causes many problems such as unable to be hired or accepted as joining insurance and so on.

Among the ethical issues that this matter invokes, the core of them is the violation of privacy. Most of things in the world namely education, crimes, jobs, hospitals, shopping, etc are recorded due to the development of informational technology and it is probably impossible to be free from past records. It is understandable and in many cases useful to keep some records, but the problem occurs when these information are used to make money, especially when there are much inaccurate information.

It is ethically undesirable for the network system to be able to search anything. There must be some control over what kind of information gets distributed, and there are legal steps taken for this but the problem will not be sold as wrong as black markets exist. Since it is just a data, it is easy for black markets to exist especially with the internet. This is a serious problem since the society is tending to utilize data more and more. For example, money is probably going to be a mere data in time. As we rely more on data, the more serious this matter can be and the more effort have to be spent on it.


Blogger akirajackson said...

Selling personal data is unethical and is also a violation of privacy. I think personal information should not be shared becuase it can be used illegaly and would cause many problems.

January 16, 2007 8:28 PM  
Blogger Sujit George said...

This essay is the man! Thats right dog! Your the dog!

February 16, 2007 12:15 PM  

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