Ethics in E-Marketing

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Ethics in E-Marketing:
Spamming and Privacy Issues
Kelli Fogerty
National University

Abstract
This paper focuses the key ethical issues of Internet marketing. The two areas that will be emphasized are spamming and privacy issues. This study will first explore the nature of spamming by examining five elements of it: harvesting email addresses, untraceable sources, advertising harmful or illegal products, opt-out options, and malicious files. The next part of this paper explores common e-marketing techniques that raise concern over consumer privacy on the Internet. The techniques discussed are cookies, data mining, trading consumer information, and keeping consumers uninformed. The research will conclude with a review of various efforts to protect consumers on the Internet, including government legislation, Internet industry organizations, and ways that consumers can protect themselves. Analysis indicates that there is a lack of ethics in e-marketing practices. The results of this study show that while attempts to protect Internet users have been effective, consumers must also actively defend their own privacy.

Ethics in E-Marketing: Spamming and Privacy Issues
Today’s Internet-driven economy has taken traditional marketing to a whole new platform. More and more people are beginning to use the Internet as their means of shopping, paying bills, and communicating with others. This rise in usage has motivated online companies to devise new ways of marketing their products and services. However, e-marketing practices have generated much concern due to their unethical nature. User privacy and the protection of personal information have become major issues for consumers. Spamming is perhaps the most unscrupulous of these practices. Web-based companies have found ways to obtain email addresses without permission from recipients. Often times the source of the message is untraceable, and the sender does not provide an opt-out option. These senders tend to send out bulk mail with links to harmful or illegal products. In some cases, the links contain malicious files that can infect a computer when opened. Other e-marketing practices that raise concern over privacy include cookies, data mining, and trading consumer data. Such things have allowed companies to track users’ browsing habits and easily obtain their personal information. Moreover, most people feel they are uninformed about online companies’ privacy policies, which has resulted in a major decline in consumer trust on the Internet. This study will also discuss various government legislation and Internet industry organizations that effectively protect consumers on the Internet, as well as emphasize the importance of consumers protecting themselves.

Spamming has become the most unethical practice in e-marketing for many reasons. The first is that email addresses are obtained without the knowledge or consent of recipients. This is typically referred to as “harvesting.” A study by Palmer (2005) describes this as a process where Web-based companies purchase, guess, or steal email addresses in order to send out a large number of unsolicited messages simultaneously. What results is a junk-mailbox full of emails containing unwanted advertisements. The second reason is that more often than not, the sources of these messages are untraceable, and recipients are not provided with an option to opt-out (Palmer, 2005). Thus, people are receiving the same advertisement repeatedly from the same sender, even though the sender’s address is different each time. Today, advances in software technology allow spammers to change the “from” address to anything they want, even to the recipient’s address. This ensures that the message is not rejected by the recipient. Additionally, it increases the chance that the email will be opened instead of automatically deleted. People will be curious when they receive an email...
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