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E-Commerce: Personal Information, Fair Information Practice, Ethics

1. Name some of the personal information collected by Web sites about their visitors.

2. What are two core principles of the FTC's Fair Information Practice principles?

3. What basic assumption does the study of ethics make about individuals?

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Consumer Reports writes that there is no limit to what can be collected by websites. One big area of concern is credit reports and credit history. Three major firms collect this data from various sources (especially the web), and these are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They can collect data concerning your financial state, income, tax status, legal status, court cases and credit card history, just to name a few.

The second big area is insurance claims. Collecting information here is big business, and the insurance industry is willing to spend quite a bit to gather as much information on its people as possible. The big company here is ChoicePoint, which specializes in all forms of data collection to be sold to insurance firms and banks. Recently, ChoicePoint was fined $15 million by the FTC for not properly securing its information.

The third big area is health. The major firm here is a consortium, called MIB Group, that collects health data and shares it with insurance firms, among other institutions. Now, your medical histories are not reported here, but many of your insurance claims are. Other firms collect information for drug manufacturers. Whenever you apply for health insurance, you sign a waiver that says the insurer can go to MIB and get whatever information it needs.

There are other areas related to the big three above: rental histories (old apartments, etc), mailing list ...

Solution Summary

The following posting discusses aspects of e-commerce, including personal information, core principles and basic assumptions.