Data Mining and Privacy-an ethical look Essay

Data Mining and Privacy-an ethical look Essay

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Data Mining and Privacy-an ethical look

I. Introduction

In 2001, the MIT Technology Review listed data mining as one of the top 10 technologies that will change the world.[i] So, what is data mining? For many people, the simple answer is that data mining is the collecting of people’s information when logged onto the Internet. But Webopedia emphasizes that data mining is not the collection of data itself, but the statistical interpretation of it – allowing people to obtain new information or find hidden patterns within that collected data.[ii] It is the combination of these, collection and analysis, which are cause for concern. People want to know: What information is being collected about me? Who has access to that information? What decisions are people making about me based upon that information?

This paper looks at how data mining is currently being used on the Internet. It examines whether our privacy rights are vulnerable. Ways in which our privacy can be protected are explored. Finally, an ethical question is considered: ‘Are we maintaining our privacy with the current usage of data mining on the Internet?’ This question is looked at from several ethical points of view.

II. Examples of Data Mining Use

In general, nearly every time you surf or make a purchase online, information is collected on your actions. Then targeted advertising can be presented online, emailed, snail-mailed or even phoned to you. The business concept behind this is “best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior” (ala Dr. Phil). One company claims that retailers can increase their return on data mining investment by 1,000 percent.[i] The first step in understanding data mining is to look at the various ways t...

... middle of paper ...

[x] Sara Baase, A Gift of Fire (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003)44, 46, 55, 85, 86

[xi] American Civil Liberties Union, MATRIX: Myths and Reality, 10 Feb 2004, 17 Feb 2004,

[xii] Dan Verton, Senate Kills Data Mining Program, 18 Jul 2003, Computerworld, 17 Mar 2004,

[xiii] Martin S Olivier, Database Privacy - Balancing Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability, SIGKDD Explorations 4:2 (December 2002): 20-27, 29 Feb 2004,

[xiv] Patricia Ellen Freed, Thinking Ethically about Policy Issues, Jewish College of Nursing and Allied Health, 13 Mar 2004,

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