In the age of the data broker and the commodification of consumer information the ethical precedent falls even closer to an area of grey. Whilst the information of individuals is being circulated through companies constantly the information is sold or offered in another form of transaction. Presented as another avenue for business and an optimization of developing a target market this has been a valuable tool in the development of business for many companies. As consumers live their lives online there is extensive information stored about them online. This information is protected by the discretion of the company who holds it.
As we move forward in technology, many governments are seeking an avenue to securitise this domain and have companies release information to enable the interests of government’s security agendas. These security agendas can be comforting to the consumer and in turn not affect the integrity of the company or alternatively they can be seen as a breach of privacy to the consumer and be damaging to the company.
Ancestry.com showed the impact governmental information interference can have on company integrity and consumer trust. When they gave out information in two standout cases; one being the case of the “grim sleeper” a Los Angeles-based serial killer, the other example in finding the suspected murderer of Angie Dodge. The sites privacy clause states this possibility of sharing information with authorities when deemed necessary, but it is not a widely known fact for the consumer. The site has given information about its users to authorities in a variety of cases to which some have resulted in conviction and others inconclusive. The information given is a DNA database and genetic map of the customer; this information is sensitive and opens the client up to variety vulnerabilities. Erin Murphy, author and professor spoke to Wired on the matter and stated, “Anyone who knows the science understands that there is a high rate of false positives” when discussing forensic DNA use.
The Apple vs. FBI case has highlighted the vulnerabilities of the consumer in the sharing of information with governments and the possibility of hacking as a legitimate threat to company integrity and customer security. The FBI has just dropped the case after seeking alternate avenues of accessing the information stored on the phone used in the San Bernardino shooting. The FBI originally was pushing for Apple to rewrite software to bypass iPhones lock system. Apple refused because they felt this made the consumers vulnerable and undermined the integrity of Apple consumer relations.
These two cases present the ways in which security interests between companies and governments can clash. Going forward in the information age it will be a balancing act between the security of information and the security of the state.