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The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the article posted by SBC News on 20th December 2018 titled ‘Facebook sued over Cambridge Analytica data leak’ (SBS News, 2018). This article covered the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal in which Facebook was involved, and it negatively affected the privacy of over 87 million users which includes many Australians as well. This article provides that a US official, Karl Racine, is suing Facebook for breaching the privacy of its users because their data was leaked. Facebook collected and allowed third-party developers to collect private data of its users without getting their approval. The management of Facebook decided to launch a platform which allowed third-party developers to collect the private data of those users who have not given their consent to the developers. The data collected in this breach was used by the company in order to find voters who support the Presidential Campaign of Donald Trump in the elections of 2016 (Albright, 2018). This article shows that the actions of Facebook were gone unpunished and the company is continuously collecting the private data of its users even after failing to act in an ethical manner. The structure of this essay will start with outlining the arguments made in the article along with evaluation of the history of the whole incident. The main ethical concerns raised in the article will be analysed in this essay to evaluate whether the principle of leadership, corporate social responsibility corporate governance and corporate citizenship are violated in this case. This essay will evaluate whether an ethical decision has made in this case by supporting the arguments with other ethical cases. Utilitarianism and Deontological ethical theory will be used in this essay to align their principles with ethical decision-making processes with the ethical decision.
The article posted by SBS News shows the negative impact of the decision taken by Facebook on its users across the globe which includes Australia as well. The users share their personal data on the platform to share it with their friends, family members and strangers. A duty is owed by Facebook towards its users to ensure that it takes appropriate measures to protect their privacy by implementing necessary policies. However, the company and its management did the opposite by launching a program called Open Graph platform in 2010 (Temperton, 2018). This program allowed the developers of the company to collect personal data of users and their friends. The developers who received permission from users to collect their data were also authorised by Facebook to collect the private data of their friends who have not given their consent. It raises a major ethical concern since the private data of users were breached by the company.
In 2013, an online quiz application which prepared psychological profile of its users collected the data of 300,000 users through Open Graph platform. Later this program was shut down by Facebook. In 2017, it was reported that the application which gains acceptance to collect data from 300,000 uses actually breached the privacy of more than 87 million users (Kastrenakes, 2018). After this incident, an investigation started against Facebook, and a committee was established to entertain this case. In this committee, a testimony of the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was given in which he admitted that it was his mistake that the privacy of over 87 million users is breached. However, no legal actions were taken against Facebook, and the company continued its operations by collecting the private data of its users. In this article, an argument is made by Karl Racine that the company has not been punished for breaching the private of its users and allowing third parties to collect their private data (SBS News, 2018).
The key ethical concern which is highlighted in this article is failure of Facebook to protect the privacy of its users and implementing appropriate policies to determine who can access their data and how it should be used. Most Facebook users are unaware that the company collects the private data and make a profit out of the same. Customers see relevant advertisement on the website which is based on their preferences and likes, and the company makes profit out of the same. A duty is owed by Facebook towards its users to ensure that it takes reasonable steps which are necessary to protect their private data from third parties access (Warren, 2018). The corporation is also required to take measures in order to prohibit third-party developers from accessing the private data of users. Therefore, the failure of Facebook and its management to comply with these guidelines raises a major issue. Due to this failure, the company breached the principles of corporate governance which are referred to a set of rules and guidelines that allow the management to take corrective actions to maintain a balance between the interests of stakeholders of the company (Hermalin and Weisbach, 2012).
Although Facebook has implemented a corporate social responsibility (CSR) model in the business; however, its management failed to comply with its guidelines since they decided to give approval to issuing the Open Graph platform which leads to violating the privacy of over 87 million users. The corporation has also breached corporate citizenship policies while taking business decisions. Corporate citizenship is the term which is used to describe the obligation of the company towards society, public and the environment to ensure that its actions did not adversely affect their interest (Pies, Beckmann and Hielscher, 2014). The social responsibility which is owed by Facebook towards its users is breached since they were not consulted before their private data was used by the company to generate profit in the business. Lastly, the corporation has also breached the principles of ethical leadership practices. In the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, the company decided to launch the Open Graph platform which was approved by its senior executives as well (Lapowsky, 2018). It shows that their objective was to generate more profits rather than protecting the privacy of Facebook’s users.
An ethical decision is not made in this scenario because Facebook and its management are not punished for their failure to comply with relevant guidelines to protect the privacy of its users. The committee established by the government to hold the company liable was not able to impose any penalties due to lack of regulations which governs the operations of these companies. The company is also under investigation by Australia’s privacy commissioner due to the data violation in the Cambridge Analytica scandal because it was revealed that more than 300,000 Australians were all affected by this data breach (Doran, 2018). Even after facing legal implications, Facebook still did not suffer any punishment which ensures that similar incidents did not occur in the future. A penalty of £500,000 was imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on Facebook for its failure to act ethically; however, the company generates more profit than this penalty in less than ten minutes. A recent example of a fine of €50 million which was imposed on Google for GDPR violation shows that the penalty imposed on Facebook is not ethical (Porter, 2019). The decision taken by the committee to allow Facebook to continue its operations and collection of private data of users creates a major threat for their private. Google is fined for €50 million because its data consent policies are not easily accessible or transparent; however, the privacy of users is not violated by the company. In the case of Facebook, over 87 million users are affected by the actions of Facebook due to its failure to comply with relevant data protection guidelines; therefore, an ethical decision is not taken in the scenario.
The principles of Utilitarianism and Deontology ethical theory can be applied in this scenario in order to evaluate the case based on ethical perspective. The Utilitarianism ethical theory is a part of normative ethical theories which evaluates the consequences of a situation to determine whether the actions are ethical or not. The element of this theory provides that actions should achieve greater good for a greater number of people (Kagan, 2018). If the consequences of a particular decision lead to positive outcomes, then it is considered as ethical as per Utilitarianism perspective. The decision taken by Facebook had negative consequences for more than 87 million people. The company and its management decided to generate more profits by violating the privacy of users which also goes unpunished. Currently, there are no restrictions on Facebook in relation to stopping the company from collecting the data of its users. Since the outcomes did not receive greater good for a greater number of people, the actions taken by Facebook are considered as unethical. The Deontology ethical theory is also a part of normative ethical theory; however, it did not focus on consequences of a situation. As per this theory, the actions which are taken by breaching the social or legal duties by parties cannot be considered as ethical even if the consequences of those actions are positive (Ismaeel and Blaim, 2012). People should comply with their duties to act ethically in a particular scenario. Facebook violated its duty towards the users by failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that their privacy is maintained and their data is not accessed by third parties without their permission. Therefore, the actions of the executives of Facebook are unethical as per the principles of the Deontology ethical theory.
The ethical decision-making process can be used in order to find ethical solutions in different ethical dilemmas. The first step of this process is identifying the ethical problem and second step is collecting relevant information about the problem. The third step is linked with evaluation of the information, and the fourth step is acting or implementing on the situation (Craft, 2013). The fifth step involves making a decision, and sixth step is considering alternatives. The last step is reviewing the actions. The ethical problem which is raised is failure of Facebook to take reasonable steps to protect the data privacy of its users and accessing others to access the data without their consent. Facebook launched the Open Graph platform which allowed developers to collect the private data of those users who did not give their express permission to access their data (Kozlowska, Gershgorn and Todd, 2018). It can be evaluated that the objective of Facebook and its management was to generate profits in the expense of privacy of its users. A penalty can be imposed on Facebook, and it should be enforced to comply with ethical principles. The ethical decision in this scenario is that Facebook should be prohibited from accessing private data of its user without collect their permission and a penalty should be imposed. An alternative option is allowing Facebook to collect private data of its users and only imposing penalty for its actions. As per the review of these options, the alternative option will not ensure that similar incident did not happen in the future based on which the first option is ethical in this scenario.
In conclusion, the article posted by SBS News shows the negative impacts of the actions taken by Facebook and its management which negatively affected its users. The company has acted unethically because its management approved the Open Graph platform which allowed developers to collect private data of those users who have not given their permission. The article provided that a suit is filed by Karl Racine against Facebook since it is not punished for its unethical practices. The decision taken by the committee for allowing Facebook to continue its operations is unethical, and the actions of the company are unethical as per Utilitarianism and Deontology ethical theory. Lastly, ethical decision-making process is used to provide an ethical option in this scenario which can assist in preventing similar incidents in the future.
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