Ethical Issues Raised by Data Mining Essay

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Ethical Issues Raised by Data Mining

Data mining is the practice of gathering data from various sources and manipulating it to provide richer information than any of contributing sources is able to do alone or to produce previously unknown information. Businesses and governments share information that they have collected with the purpose of cross-referencing it to find out more information about the people tracked in their databases.

Data mining has many benefits. Stores are able to stock merchandise that better reflects what customers want. When Victoria’s Secret started tracking user purchases they noticed that customers in Miami bought much more white lingerie than customers in other areas. As a result they began
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This happens when a company collects data for one use and later thinks of another use for the data or sells it to another organization. While people may agree for the information that they provide to be used for one purpose they may not want it used for others. However, after providing the information they may have little control over how it is used or to whom it is given. In some cases data may even be collected without knowledge. A German department store issued RFID (radio frequency identification) cards to its customers as part of a customer loyalty program. Unbeknownst to shoppers the cards were transmitting each location in the store that the customer visited and the information was being stored by the store.[iii] When the full intent of the cards was finally revealed to the public there was outrage amongst the public and the store set up kiosks where customers could deactivate their cards. However, even this left the tags partially enabled. Customers had no knowledge of the information that they were providing and no control over how it was used since they had to rely on the store to deactivate the cards and dispose of the existing information.

Data mining has been come increasingly easier in recent years. It cannot be done manually because it requires applying mathematics, statistics, and pattern matching to large amounts of data[iv] but advances in computer hardware and software have made data mining on a large scale a reality. This has
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