Choicepoint: A Case of Privacy in the 21st Century
Since its founding in 1776, America has been a country where the rights of individuals are one of the most important issues. As time has passed and the country progressed, this issue has evolved and taken different forms; the Civil War was fought over whether people of all colors had the right to freedom, in the early 20th century women finally demanded their long overdue right to vote (Wikipedia, 2003), and most recently, in the 1960’s, people of color had to assert their right to equal treatment under the laws of this nation. As the 21st century begins, the citizens of this nation are facing a new and unique challenge to the rights of the individual, specifically, a person’s right to privacy. In the digital age, do people still have a right for information about them to be kept private or is anything and everything up for grabs to whoever is seeking the information? Does the government of this country have a legal responsibility to protect the gathering and dissemination of data about its citizens? Are companies who engage in the gathering and dissemination of information acting within ethical bounds set by society regarding people’s personal privacy? Ethical Issues
Choicepoint’s Ethical Issues: As one of the three leaders in the information industry, Choicepoint faces many ethical issues. An important one is making sure they gather information in a legal way and do not violate privacy laws when gathering information, like they did when gathering information on millions of Latin Americans to sell to the U.S Government(A.P 2003). Once the data is compiled, Choicepoint needs to be sure they maintain proper security over the information. This means protecting their database from hackers who may try to attack their digital security measures as well as having security procedures in place to make sure employees handle the data properly and do not access data that they should not be looking at. Choicepoint also has an ethical duty to its customers who purchase the data as well as individuals on whom the data is gathered to keep data accurate and updated. Most importantly, Choicepoint must be sure that employees follow proper procedures for making sure individuals and companies trying to purchase data are legitimate and intend to use the data for legitimate uses. b.)
Citizen’s Ethical Issues: Citizens need to be very concerned about so much personal information being gathered in one place. Part of any person’s development through their life is learning from their mistakes so they will not repeat them in the future. However, if a person’s whole history of legal, credit, and driving mistakes are recorded and made available to anyone willing to pay, it can be impossible for someone to escape the mistakes of their past. Citizens should also be concerned about their personal information falling into the hands of identity thieves. When a company like Choicepoint has all their data, individuals have no control over who gets their hands on the data and must rely solely on Choicepoint’s discretion to keep the data in legitimate hands, which it has shown it can not be trusted to do through numerous security breaches (Otto, Anton, Baumer, 2007). Individuals also need to be concerned about Choicepoint supplying personal consuming data to legitimate companies who will abuse this data. If companies use the data from Choicepoint to endlessly bombard customers with ‘personalized’ advertising, it could become as annoying and meaningless as spam on the internet. Finally, citizens should be worried that Choicepoint will supply data to government agencies that are not allowed to keep citizen profiles. If the government agencies simply outsource this job to Choicepoint and then pay for the information, the government could potentially track every citizen’s actions in a legal way and use this data to intimidate, crackdown, and monitor political opponents...
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