How Much Are Your Google Searches Worth?

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How much are your Google searches worth? With today’s technology, companies are able to monitor and collect consumer data from online searches and transactions, and sell it at the highest bidding price. The act of collecting and selling consumer data is called data brokering. Companies such as Acxiom Corp. and Datalogix are turning data brokering into a billion-dollar industry. These companies solicit that data brokering improves advertisements, quality of product, and fraud prevention. However, many individuals are concerned that it is an invasion of privacy and poses a threat to the consumers and national security. In this essay I plan to explain why data brokering is an issue for modern engineers and analyze its ethical implications of from a utilitarian position and through the lens of the precautionary principle. Terabytes upon terabytes of data are being sent across the internet on a daily basis. Several moral issues such as privacy, exploitation, and victimization arise once data brokering companies have the access to this superfluous amount of data. A major concern is how this information is being used to target sales on specific types of users. The online travel agency Orbitz has found that Apple users are willing to spend approximately 30% more than PC users. As a result, Orbitz displays different travel options that are slightly more expensive to Apple users1. This example may be seen as a simple use of strategic advertisement, but introduces the concept of
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