The issue with ethics is that the picture is hardly ever black or white. Rather, it tends to be grayish and unclear. With the age of technology on the rise, the concept of ethical research within companies has never been so prevalent. There is an ever-growing tendency of organizations perverting the expanding capabilities of research in a way that affects their uninformed customers. Even the largest of companies can be found pushing the line of unethical research and invading the precious privacy of its customer base. Facebook is one of the leading companies that has recently been found tinkering around in unethical research. The reactions of both the secular and Christian world should emphasize all the more why Christian business owners need to walk in honesty and integrity.
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Though Facebook already dominates the realm of social media, the gigantic social networking company has alienated some of its customer base by unethical research in the form of informed consent. In June of 2014 news surfaced that Facebook breaching informed consent. In 2014 a data science researcher working for Facebook released the results of a sneaky experiment that tracked the emotional effects of users caused by the manipulation of their newsfeed. Facebook was playing with its users’ emotions while the users were completely unaware of it. The public was understandably outraged at Facebook’s actions. While the secular world has little reason to remain calm, the Bible clearly tells Christians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV). With that being said, Christians should not go to worldly things to lead their emotions anyway. Christians should be quicker to understand. However, there are plenty of things companies can do to make sure that neither the secular world nor Christians, would be outraged over a lack of informed consent.
Solutions for Facebook’s failure are plentiful both in the secular realm and Christian realm. The Bible condemns deceit by saying, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9, NIV). That verse is a solid piece of advice that is meaningful with or without a Christian worldview. Someone within Facebook who was involved with this research had to have known that purposefully manipulating the emotions of Facebook users without their knowledge was a breach of informed consent. The failure to speak up could be seen as a lack of integrity. A simple fix could have been creating an opt-in. That way people participating in the experiment could have been informed. When in doubt it is always better to ask for permission. Christian business owners should hold themselves to even higher standards, because they are representing something so much important than their business. The Bible says, “do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9, NIV). Companies operating within a Biblical perspective should do everything they possibly can to walk in the utmost honesty. Not only does walking in honesty honor God, it also creates a better trusted business.
As technology rises companies are getting more opportunities to conduct research without proper informed consent. Big companies like Facebook have even been caught straddling the line between ethical and unethical research. Facebook was at the center of huge backlash when the public discovered a Facebook data researcher was manipulating the news feeds to see if it affected the users’ emotions. Both the secular world and the Christian world was outraged. While Christians should be slower to judge, companies should be quicker to walk in honesty. There are many little steps that companies can take to reduce the bad image that comes from breaching informed consent. Providing an opt-in that leaves the public well informed of research endeavors is a good way to start. The Bible tells Christians to operate with honesty and integrity. Christian business owners not only represent their company, but more importantly their God. Therefore, it is always important that Christians business owners are working within Biblical principals to ensure a good outcome for their businesses, lives, and legacies.
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