Ethics Paper on Facebook Beacon

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Abstract
Facebook began in February 2004. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his collegiate comrades at Harvard University. Rapidly expanding, Facebook’s exponential growth led to its membership growing to over one billion users, as of September 2012. One would imagine that with such growth would come more opportunities for challenges to arise: one of these challenges being users and their rights to privacy. As part of Facebook’s advertising system, their primary means of generating revenue, Beacon sent data from other companies and websites to Facebook. Following a lawsuit, Beacon then changed to accommodate these requests. On December 5, 2007, Facebook declared it would allow users to choose not to participate in Beacon in which the owner of Facebook apologized for the dispute. When approaching a solution to this ethical dilemma, Facebook had a couple alternative decisions they could make. They could leave the Beacon system as it was, they could change the Beacon feature to accommodate requests, or they could delete the feature all together. Using the various ethical approaches to determine which option was best in determining how to solve their issues; one option would prove most logical. Under the utilitarian approach, choosing to keep the Beacon feature would not be the best decision to make. Changing the Beacon feature to allow users to choose to participate or opt out of using the feature. In the end, with this option, more would be satisfied, making it the best choice under this ethical approach. Facebook’s overall reasons for changing the feature spanned farther than just making users happy, it dealt with compliance with the law, so I feel that the positive outcomes from the change will outweigh any potential negative outcomes in the future.

Ethical Dilemma
Facebook began in February 2004. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his collegiate comrades at Harvard University. Initially, the site was aimed at other Harvard students but was eventually expanded its membership to other colleges surrounding the Boston area. Rapidly expanding, it then opened its membership to high school students, and finally to anyone 13 and over. Facebook’s exponential growth led to its membership growing to over one billion users, as of September 2012. One would imagine that with such growth would come more opportunities for challenges to arise: one of these challenges being users and their rights to privacy. In an attempt to alleviate fears concerning privacy, Facebook enabled its users to choose from a variety of privacy settings and chose how viewable their profiles are. Although Facebook requires all users to provide a user name and a picture that can be accessed by anyone, users can regulate what other information they have shared is viewable, as well as who can find them in searches, through those privacy settings. As part of Facebook’s advertising system, their primary means of generating revenue, Beacon sent data from other companies and websites to Facebook, in hopes of permitting certain ads and Facebook users to communicate their activities with their online friends, some of the activities being circulated through the Facebook user’s newsfeed. The service creates controversy shortly after its launch because of apprehensions concerning privacy and in November of 2007 a group, MoveOn.org, generated a group on Facebook and an online petition requiring that Facebook cease to circulate user activity from other websites without clear and obvious permission. Within fewer than ten days, the group obtained 50,000 members. Following a lawsuit, Beacon then changed to accommodate these requests. On December 5, 2007, Facebook declared it would allow users to choose not to participate in Beacon in which the owner of Facebook apologized for the dispute. (Carlson, 2010). Relevant Information

Although Facebook, and other social media sites, are very public in the data users can opt to share, Beacon took away a...
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