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As the statement said “Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose, and nearly impossible to win back" .
The particular statement is as true in the recent era of technology as it was in the early eras of emotions and individualisms. The respective era is witnessing a rapid and faster development of the Technology than ever before hence making it more difficult to regulate and formulate the legislatures for the issue of Information Privacy. Generally the consumers, who are mainly the private users or the organizations, are the ones trusting the online companies which stake their personal information being exchanged over the cloud.
Section 1 of this paper gives a brief introduction of the ethical issue and highlights the changes technology has impact in the privacy of information. Section 2 explain about the debate toward Google's new applications and the different ways of handling data and also introduces the two inventions the paper will focus on. Section 3 explored the diverse definitions of privacy from different points of view as well as mentioning the three classifications of privacy. Section 4 focus on the lack of concern Google is having in reference to information-handling. Section 5 present the Google Adsense and give details on how this tool is utilized unethically. Also, it analyzes the ethical issue from the classical philosophy, utilitarian, Kantian. Section 6 centers the attention to the second application Google Earth and explains the unethical part of this tool. Finally, section 7 is dedicated to the conclusion.
2. GOOGLE'S REPUTATION
Google is one of the most widely and majorly used online group in the recent age of technology. Google has been providing the applications that have been attracting large audiences and consumers to be facilitated in daily basis. However the recent applications of Google have landed it to stand in between the immense debate. The debate is concerned with the Information Privacy being offered and postulated by the certain Google applications over the internet and the enormous amount of personal information Google is storing on the internet based storage units. The paper will focus on the recent Google applications such as Google Earth and Google AdSense and analyze them with respect to the potential privacy issues they are creating.
Google has, however, managed to grab the attention and trust of the private consumers as well as the small - medium scale organizations. The Google has been providing the ethical way of information interchange however with certain recent releases of the applications of "Google Earth", "Google AdSense", etc. it has stepped beyond the conventional boundaries of the ethics. The basic reason that claims this stepping beyond is the enormous amount of the information interchange, taking place in terms of the personal information and monetary services that it has become vulnerable for the third party exposure. Precisely saying the attitude possessed by the Google Earth and Google AdSense is not termed as ethical because it do not "most dutifully respect the rights of all affected" . In order to understand the privacy issues engulfing the Google Earth and Google AdSense, it is necessary to understand the insights of the Privacy.
The definition of privacy is multifaceted and is defined in several different perspectives hence making it to have the loop holes. For example the general perception of the privacy amongst the general population is that privacy is defined as to "be free from interference by others" . However the arguments have been presented over the span of years to define the privacy effectively; "initially, privacy was understood in terms of freedom from (physical) intrusion. Later it became associated with freedom from interference into one‘s personal affairs.ÂÂ Most recently, privacy has come to involve access to and control of personal information" .
3.1 Categorization of Privacy
However it would be better to understand the privacy if it is broken down into three categories. The categories can be described as:
- Accessibility privacy;
- Decisional privacy;
- Informational Privacy.
4. GOOGLES'S LACK OF PRIVACY CONCERNS
The Google applications under the analysis of this paper are "Google Earth" that deals with the "Accessibility Privacy" and the "Google AdSense" that deals with the "Informational Privacy". Informational Privacy can be described as the ability to take command of the personal and private information of the consumers while the accessibility privacy is to be dealt as the capability of intruding or accessing the information that can be termed as intrusion. The masses are describing the Google as "Google is currently the most notorious search engine, as well as, a rapidly expanding company with an increasing number of products. Google‘s growing prominence in the cyber world has forced many to question and look at what information Google has access to and whether or not it is acceptable" .
5.1 Ethics In terms of Mechanism
Google has been advertising its product titled "Google AdSense" for the advertisement purposes. The mechanism do not allow the Google to technically read, interpret or parse our emails; however the application do search and parse our emails to search for the keywords that are hence helpful for the choice of advertisements.
"Google AdSense is a fast and easy way for website publishers of all sizes to display relevant Google ads on their website's content pages and earn money. Because the ads are related to what your visitors are looking for on your site ââ‚¬" or matched to the characteristics and interests of the visitors your content attracts ââ‚¬" you'll finally have a way to both monetize and enhance your content pages. It's also a way for website publishers to provide Google web and site search to their visitors, and to earn money by displaying Google ads on the search results pages" .
The customers having a subscription with the Google AdSense are in one way allowing the Google to make a database collection system for the documentations and recording of what is being clicked by the people as they enter the websites owned by the subscribers. This record system also determines the suitable type of the advertisements. The website owners have to give up the certain level of their website's privacy to the Google as they sign the ToS of the Google AdSense. Precisely we can say that the Google AdSense, while parsing large number of emails, is breaching the Information Privacy Regulations as well as buying the privacy of the consumers that cannot be regarded as the ethical conduct.
5.2 Ethics in terms of Classical Philosophy
The actions no matter how advanced and progressive they are can be classified as the classical definition of the actions. Similarly they can easily be judged in the context of the classical definitions of the philosophical ethics. The Google AdSense, for instance if analyzed in terms of the Kant's view of the ethical conducts can be proved as unethical and potential medium of breaching into the privacy domains of others.
5.3 Why not Utilitarianism?
The reason for not analyzing this action from the Utilitarian point of view is that, it is a recurring action that is bound to go in cycles with the progressive periods. For most of the consumers the end goals are an achievement in terms of the monetary gain and appreciation while it is the people whom should the actual actions be concerned about as it is them whose data is being abstracted, documented, parsed and recorded without compensating them or taking them into any type of agreement or the consent.
5.4 Analysis on the Basis of Kantianism
The Kantianism is basically a deontological view of ethics that stresses on the conduct of the duties rather than pivoting around the end goals, objectives or intentions. If we analyze the Google AdSense from this view, we can easily observe that the duty of any organization, online or offline is not to utilize any resources that may belong to any other person in one way or the other for their own monetary and / or repetitive gain. Those resources can only be utilized if the owner has come into a mutual agreement with the free will. This is not the case with the respective application of the Google.
Similarly, if we maximize the Google AdSense's mechanism to the universal level; this would mean that we are allowing any business, individual or group to breach into the resources of the other people in order to gain self-benefits. Just because the Google has been lucky enough not to land in any major ethical law suit or case, does not mean that its conduct can be regarded to as ethical and in compliance with the ethics of the business world.
6. GOOGLE EARTH/MAPS
Google has introduced a record breaking and extremely addictive application by the title of Google Maps or Google Earth. The Google Earth works in order to produce high quality and precise mapping as well as directive images using the satellites.
Google Maps was the initial version of the Google Earth that was solely able to map and direct the user. However it worked on the similar nature as that of the Google Search and was unconcerned with the Information Privacy issues and ethics. Whenever any user goes to the Google Maps or Google earth, all of its searches and the keywords are recorded along with the private information of the user himself. The Google applications are, hence, capable of tracing you and deducing the hypothesis about the online searcher.
On the other hand, the most recent variation of the Google Maps, i.e. Google Earth is capable of obtaining the real time images of the streets, homes and various other locations that are desired by the user. Making use of the satellites, the Google Earth is capable of obtaining actual images without the consent of the localities.
6.1 Unethical Perspectives of Google Earth
The Google Earth, that has been taking the real time images of the real time places in the request of mere an unknown user can result in several unethical issues. For instance, such a snapping application is similar to taking the snaps or shots of anyone else's house from several dimensions. Can anybody expect the house owner not to be suspicious of your activities and inquire the reason for doing so and most probably stopping you to take any other snap and hand over the already taken snaps? Analyzing the Google's application from this perspective will surely land it in the unethical perspective.
Another issue that can arise is the misuse of the taken images. For instance, these images can be misused by the potential terrorists to map the locations without actually being traced themselves and plan out their malicious intentions without any significant cost.
Instead of presenting the potential reasoning to state Google as an unethical organization, doing so explicitly will land any one into several issues. These issues are more likely to surface due to the mantra of the Google that states "don't be evil". The mantra has a lot of potential to drive in the consumers and attract their investments. Similarly the quality of work produced by the Google regardless of their mechanism also refrain the masses from getting into the debates against Google and its Applications.
Even though the Google has grown up into a massive organization that is too powerful and too much aware of their potential consumers and stakeholder, they are still not aware of what can potentially go wrong against them or they least care about that. The delving of Google into the unethical practices is mainly because of its approach that is "The Rights Approach".
7.2 The Rights Approach
The "Rights Approach" presents the idea "That people have dignity based on their ability to choose freely what they will do with their lives, and they have a fundamental moral right to have these choices respected. People are not objects to be manipulated; it is a violation of human dignity to use people in ways they do not freely choose" . In this context, the Google has actually snatched the right away from the people to freely choose their options to establish their personal privacy. The Google Refrain them from choosing to stop Google from scanning their mails, or storing their clicked information or taking the real time snapshots of their houses, localities and streets.