Ethics? What Ethics?!

As personal social media use has exploded, businesses have spotted an opportunity. They have never had such an access to free and personal information on consumers, the data is genuine, easily accessible and best of all costs nothing. Products and services can now be tailored for individual consumers with information obtained from their posts, clicks and cookies.

There most prominent ethical issues attached to business use of social media relate to abuse of privacy/consumer data, faking/misreporting endorsements and causing offense.

This TIME magazine article points out the ways in which Facebook abuses the consumer data it has like keeping the data forever, forcing profile to be visible on search results etc. I wasn’t aware of this level of snooping from Facebook so I have taken the decision to remove Facebook apps/plugins from every device that I own.

The golden rule of Twitter/Facebook posts for is to never offend large groups of people especially if your posts can bring your employer into disrepute. #hasjustinelandedyet was a prominent case where the offending tweeter was fired and a more recent case would be a Labour MP damaging Labour’s election prospects by not anticipating an inevitable backlash after posting this image on Twitter. These are of course a classic examples of the boundary between personal and professional identities blurring to the extent where nothing is private and every time you are online you represent your employer.

Celebrity endorsements are big business as they generate revenue for companies who can rely on dedicated celebrity fans to gobble up their products. These endorsements are carefully crafted so as to appear sincere and fool followers, an example of unreported endorsement. Fake endorsement, as exposed by Dispatches, is the buying of Facebook likes by brands to generate fake popularity.

Unethical use of social media by businesses boils down to generating endorsements while misleading consumers on their sincerity, publishing offending content and invasion of privacy by content providers.

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