In case you missed Cathy’s contributed Knoxville News-Sentinel column from over Memorial Day weekend, you can read the full version below:
There has been a lot said and written in the past few months about both the benefits and the “evils” of how much we can now know about each other through the many communications channels that are available to us these days.
So where do we draw the line between good and evil, between helpful and harmful? I believe that we draw it the same way we do for any decision involving other people and their rights. As companies with increasing abilities to invade other people’s private spaces, we should ask ourselves these questions:

  • Why do we want/need to know the information we are seeking?
  • Is it appropriate for us to know within the framework of our corporate mission?
  • Can we obtain it legally and ethically?
  • What do we plan to do with it, and are any of our plans in this regard over-stepping our own
    moral boundaries?
  • Have we answered the question of whether or not our actions in this regard will allow our own
    integrity as well as that of the audiences we are seeking information from to remain intact?

Our decisions and resulting actions regarding our ability to mine and use data should be driven by the same thought processes that drive every aspect of our businesses.
So how do you protect yourself from becoming a victim of unethical internet browsing and data mining?
First, remember that the moment you open an internet browser, you begin to leave “digital footprints,” allowing the sites that you visit to track your activities and to begin recognizing who you are. This tracking is totally legal, including knowledge of your current location, links you have clicked on, whether you are on your home/office computer or a mobile device, and other information about you and your activities.
Think about the amount and type of information you are making available on your social media platforms. Is any of it opening up opportunities for harm to come your way? Are you careful about who you invite into your various networks and about what links you choose to open?
We have responsibilities on both sides of this equation – to protect our rights and our privacy as individuals by carefully considering what we do online and how we do it, as well as to be transparent and trustworthy as businesses who have access to this information.

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