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Ethics of

Winter 2011

1. Facebook has been very successful in connecting people around the world. When looking at the usage numbers, it is hard to get a grasp around the amount of exposure and influence that Facebook has on the world. Facebook has more than 500 million active users and most of them log onto Facebook at least once a day spending an average of 55 minutes. To put this into perspective, about 1/12 of the world has a Facebook account and the number keeps growing substantially each day (Facebook-Statistics, 2011). Facebook started with the demographic of four-year College students and connected with over 85% of these students, but the biggest growth population is 35 years and older which account for more than half of Facebooks daily visitors (Gallaugher, 2011, p.225). When a company experiences a high level of growth like Facebook, the demand sometimes outgrows the systems set in place which poses a threat to peoples privacy. Facebook has always focused on giving people control over their experience so they can express themselves freely while knowing that their information is being shared in the way they intended (Facebook-Factsheet, 2011). They give the user the option to pick and choose what parts of their profile are visible or hidden, and they give the user the power to make their profile searchable or completely hidden to members outside of their friends. They have also taken extra measures to protect minors by limiting their profile visibility to friends of friends and networks, even if theyve chosen to make it available to everyone (Facebook-Privacy Controls, 2011). The biggest privacy issue that Facebook users have is being able to trust that Facebook will make changes that will protect their privacy, and not make changes that will facilitate more

disclosure. Users have lost trust because Facebook implements an opt-out feature which means that user preferences are automatically changed when Mark Zuckerberg thinks they should be unless the user goes to the privacy settings and changes it back. This has caused controversy because most people pay little attention to messages from Zuckerberg communicating a privacy setting change, then when the change happens to their profile, the user feels deceived into accepting changes. The implementation of newsfeeds, making profiles more visible, privacy setting changes, the Beacon program, among other changes has caused users to lose confidence in their control of personal privacy. Another privacy concern is that Facebook is an online platform and there are risks with putting information online. Using personal details gathered from publicly available websites, today's cyber criminals can take aim at specific individuals and dramatically increase the attack's success (Jaser, 2010.p.16). By December 2009, publicly available information on Facebook included the user's name, profile photo, list of friends and pages the user is a fan of, gender, geographic region and member networks. Third-party search engines had access and were actively indexing every bit of it. Given this level of information available to the general public, it's no wonder that cyber-crime remains a growth industry. The Internet Crime Complaint Center recently reported that Americans lost about $559 million to Internet thieves in 2009 more than twice the 2008 figure, when $268 million was stolen over the Internet. Perhaps that explains why Google Trends recently reported that "delete Facebook account" was the ninth most popular U.S. request (Jaser, 2010.p.16).

Facebook faces an ethical dilemma, because the company can benefit immensely by disclosing the information of its users to advertisers or marketers. Information is powerful and Facebook holds a priceless bank of information including almost 600 million peoples likes, dislikes, locations, age, relationship status, preference of movies, TV, and music, education and work status, and pretty much anything else important in their lives. Facebook earns revenue through selling advertising on their website, and the more effective the advertising is, the more money advertisers will be willing to pay. Advertising can become more effective by tailoring it to the preferences of its users. As you can see, if Facebook becomes greedy, the company holds the power to disclose information about its 600 million users to make a substantial amount of money, but they would also be hurting the sustainability of their business because a major part of their switching costs has to do with privacy control. It is evident that Mark Zuckerberg wants to increase disclosure of user information by the past changes that he has implemented. He attributes that Facebooks appeal comes from a concept he calls the social graph, which refers to Facebooks ability to collect, express, and leverage the connections between the sites users, or as some describe it as the global mapping of everyone and how theyre related (Gallaugher, 2011, p.227). This fact along with the fact that Facebook stands to make a lot of money by selling user information is a scary combination for its users. 2. Businesses cannot ignore the power of social networking. Facebook offers a platform where businesses can potentially connect with their current customers and also expand their customer base for free. All they have to do is create a business page or group page. This also

poses a risk that employees will become counter-productive because they have access to their account at work and they could use it for personal reasons only. For this reason, we propose that businesses have one employee or a team in charge of the companys Facebook page and communication and restrict access to all other employees. This will enable the company to have a presence on Facebook without compromising worker productivity. Creating a community amongst your current and future customers on a platform of almost 600 million people just makes sense. There are many ways that companies can utilize the power of Facebook. Victorias Secret has badges that its enthusiasts can download on Facebook and put on their profiles for their friends to see. Ernst & Young answers questions from college students putting them in touch with people they want to recruit (Davenport, 2008, p.24). Firms can also use engagement ads to get users involved in the advertising process. Using and engagement ad, a firm can set up a promotion where a user can do things such as like or become a fan of a brand, RSVP to an event and invite others, watch and comment on a video and see what your friends have to say, send a virtual gift with a personal message, or answer a question in a poll. The viral nature of Facebook allows actions to flow back into the news feed and spread among friends (Gallaugher, 2011, p.234). Also, companies can use this as a recruiting tool by joining groups that put them in touch with desired candidates. For example, a hospital could join a group for nursing students, and they would be able to communicate with the nursing students about potential job opportunities. Companies should restrict Facebook access and only allow the employee or team that represents the company on Facebook to have access because much time is wasted on

Facebook. In a study that analyzed 13 billion URLs accessed by businesses, Network Box found that 6.8% of all the URLs go to Facebook. The study didnt look at time spent but Facebook is the site with the highest time spent per user so the 6.8% probably translates to a lot of counterproductive time for those employees ( Also, this takes up a large amount of corporate bandwidth. If only a few employees have access to Facebook, this will eliminate the temptation to waste time on Facebook through the workday. Another reason to limit access of Facebook to select employees is to control what information is being put on Facebook about your company. This will assure that the information being put on Facebook reflects a positive representation and matches your companys strategies. The last thing a company would want to happen is to have an individual employees profile represent the companys voice on Facebook; especially if the employee has a controversial profile. This will be eliminated if the company manages their own voice on Facebook. 3. As discussed in question #1, Facebook possesses a lot of power, because they control personal information of more than 500 million users. Their users have to trust that Facebook will protect their privacy and make ethical decisions in regards to user information. In the past, Facebook hasnt always respected the privacy of its users. One way to address the privacy concerns of Facebook users is to allow users to opt-in to proposed privacy changes instead of making them opt-out. This will alleviate the chance that Facebook changes privacy settings for all users and some users are not aware of the changes which results in a part of their profile becoming public without them knowing.

Another way to address ethical concerns of Facebook users is to change the default privacy settings to a more private setting that just shows basic information of the user and keeps the majority of information hidden until a friendship request is accepted. This will allow users to share their information with their friends only. Most users are unfamiliar with their privacy settings and assume that it is set to private when actually their profile is open for anyone to see. Overall, while many students expressed privacy concerns, there were significant numbers that remained unaware of how their profile information could be readily accessed by or disclosed to others (article, p.497). As discussed in question #2 Facebook provides businesses with an opportunity to connect with their current and future customers, but it also gives businesses a chance to misuse user information in the hiring process. Businesses can troll Facebook and find potential candidates to perform a type of background check. The ethical concern is that the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires job candidates consent prior to conducting certain types of background checks. If employers are using social networking sites as a background check, candidates are legally entitled to have this investigation disclosed to them (Article, p.495). Another ethical concern is that information might be completely exaggerated in an effort to be humorous or more accepted or completely false and untruthful. Individuals may not always control or be aware of information about themselves on Facebook (Article, p.495). Facebook can address these concerns by providing businesses and users a separate profile in which users are aware that businesses have access to all information contained in this profile. This profile can be tailored more toward professionalism while keeping more personal

information in the regular user profile. The user can add resumes while providing other information that is not usually on a resume. Businesses would be required to prove that they are a legitimate business through a corporate email. This would facilitate the businesses urge to find more information on a candidate, and the users desire to keep their regular Facebook profile private.

References Davenport, T. (2008). Why Facebook and MySpace Won't Change the Workplace. Public Relations Strategist, 14(1), 23-24. Facebook. (2011). [From Facebook factsheet]. Facebook. (2011). [From Facebook statistics]. Facebook. (2011). [From Facebook Privacy Controls]. Gallaugher, J. (2011). Information Systems: A Managers Guide to Harnessing Technology Version1.1 (Facebook: Building a Business from the Social Graph). Retrieved from Jaser, J. (2010). Privacy and Crime Tripping Up Facebook. Banking New York, (15), 16.