Current means of digital communication have substantially altered the correspondence linking companies to their customers. Businesses who utilize traditional means of media communication such as TV, written mail, newspapers, magazines, among many others, promote a one-way communication with their consumers that emphasizes only the marketing content and the degree of product recognition. Therefore, businesses who implement this one-way communication ensure that the most number of consumers are being attained to. On the other hand, the Internet, an emerging media and communication in the current society, has been considerably increasing in popularity. Businesses and individuals across the world are pouring their marketing contents on the Internet to make their products and services a success. By using the Internet, marketers are aiming for a two-way communication with their consumers that allows their consumers to provide their feedback and reviews on products and services, which builds trust, transparency, and credibility between the business and the consumer. However, the increasing use of Internet for marketing products and services has brought critical problems along with it, with the major one being privacy and digital data protection. With a background in the field of emerging media and communications along with entrepreneurship, this paper will aim to address the civic issue of privacy and digital data protection within Internet by explaining how Internet is likely to impact society through demonstrating the issue’s effect domestically and internationally, tracing its historical roots, and implementing the Communication Privacy Management Theory to the issue.
Contrary to the era prior to the establishment of the internet, customers would easily be enchanted and impressed by the products offered by traditional means of communication. It’s not too many years ago when a variety of companies obtained their success through constant and relentless television advertising by the means of infomercials. From infomercials first having a success rate of 75% when a product was introduced, “success rates on one-step infomercial campaigns plummeted to 10% or less; response rates – the number of viewers who bought something while watching an infomercial – dropped into the 1% range, where they mostly remain to this day” (“The Economics of Infomercials”, 2013). This significant drop in the success rate of infomercials can also be seen in other forms of traditional media, and one of the primary reasons for this is the establishment of the internet. Thanks to the endless amount of information that the Internet provides, consumers don’t blindly buy products off infomercials without truly knowing their quality and credibility; instead, they complete a research through the internet. Consumers now have the reasonability to propel themselves online and look for elements such as customer reviews, and price comparisons prior to making a purchase.
The change in consumers’ shopping trend through their switch from the use of traditional means of communication to that of the Internet reveals how developed and evolved consumers have become. More importantly, the change in consumers’ shopping trend have also forced businesses to alter their own marketing methods, pushing many companies to adapt to the selling of their products on the Internet. For many companies that have been long existent, this could have been a challenging task, as they would be entering an area within marketing that is completely unfamiliar to them. Prior to the era of the Internet, conventional methods of marketing were the exclusive ways of raising awareness regarding one’s product or service. In the current society, the emerging medium of communication, the Internet, enables businesses to center their exertions and endeavors on their targeted customer base, and establish a society surrounding their organizational culture.
Just as consumers changed the way they shopped, inevitably, businesses also altered the way they market their products or services. Internet has made marketing more tactical, more powerful, and surprisingly, inexpensive. Rather than waiting for their brand to broadcasted where it might or might not impress a consumer, companies are creating direct communication with their consumers, addressing compliments and problems individually, and overall building a relationship with their consumers that is representative of their company. How companies accomplish this is primarily through the analyzation of their digital marketing ROI. “The most instinctive way to measure digital advertising ROI is to track metrics that tie directly to revenue and profit” (Tomita, 2016). The ways companies measure their return on investment can be seen in how fast food companies like Burger King and McDonalds offer a free burger on their receipts in return of their consumers’ opinions through the completion of a survey. Similarly, many other companies utilize a variety of elements to measure their ROI such as surveys, analyzation of the data that website traffic and volume provides, review of company reputation on social media websites such as Twitter or Facebook.
In a previous personal interview made for a class assignment with a self-entrepreneur, Abraham Benaish, he had stated that when starting out his business, one of the most challenging aspects for him was having access to a platform where he can thrive on which will consist of being able to promote his products to his targeted customers and marketing his products effectively. Although Benaish has a successful and establish business as of now, he still hasn’t made the switch to the modern means of communication, and still promotes his products through print media and word-of-mouth. Benaish’s success can be given to the credibility and trustworthiness he built with his customers over the years, as his business is thriving due to repeated customers. However, Benaish can make major improvements to his business by making a switch to marketing on the Internet which will save him various costs such as gas costs due to transporting through car, while earning him more profits through the gaining of a larger customer base, availability of more resources, and convenience by the ease of shipping and receiving, rather than driving out to each consumer.
Social media websites have made companies wary of what they market and advertise because a single consumers’ unpleasant experience, opinion, or them being offended can easily damage a company’s reputation now. Due to the Internet being a brand-new experience for many companies, there have been significant problems that nonetheless came along the way. The collection of consumers’ data for the intent of analyzing the company’s ROI, as well as the collection of consumers’ data for overall membership, organization, storage, and other purposes, have paved a pathway for data breach problems. Although data breaches existed prior to the internet, and companies still sometimes lost valuable information, it never took place at such a high and constant rate, and especially, to major companies that have millions of consumers to victimize. Instead of filing everything on paper and spending a needless amount of time and effort, majority of companies are now filing all their companies’ data through online programs on their company computers or systems. What has been a problem that has yet to be fixed within the emerging medium of Internet is that companies’ storage of data is hackable by those trying to steal this data, and use it for illegal purposes. Besides others hacking company information, there are companies who willingly give out confidential consumer information and data, completely inconsiderate of their consumers’ privacy. Although cybersecurity has been making advancements ever since its beginnings, data privacy problems have persisted even until today.
Succeeding the expeditious blooming of the Internet into the day-to-day life of the society, social media websites have also progressed along with it. Recently, Facebook, one of the leaders in the social media industry, a company that should know better about the proceedings of marketing on the Internet, revealed how they will be contacting “87 million users affected by data breach” (Badshah, 2018). Facebook had agreed to work with an application that gave personality tests to Facebook’s users in exchange for users paying a fee, but the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, had also agreed to the revealing of Facebook’s users’ information and data (Badshah, 2018). The data breach of Facebook, which is a social media company existent in nearly every country, impacted people not only in the United States, but also in Australia, the U.K., the Philippines, and Indonesia, among others. Facebook addressing this issue, an issue that impacted people globally, two years after to it happening demonstrates how consumers are left in the dark about issues regarding them for extended periods of time, and demonstrates that the credibility and trust that companies build through the Internet and social media could be an illusion. The so-called transparency Facebook promises to their customers is nonexistent if they had no knowledge of their personal data being collected by a company for over two years. Facebook delaying telling their consumers about the data breach and addressing the issue by making a public statement could cause a fundamental problem for them in legal terms, since their failure to disclose such a major data breach could lead the company into a historic fraud law suit.
Facebook’s ungrounded decision can be blamed on its poorly built information policy, a policy that should serve to protect the privacy of the company’s consumers. “In a digital world enabling data and information to have a global reach, information policies vary widely, specified or unstated, and differing dramatically by region, with no consistent expectation or legal protection, and the resulting inconsistency affects data privacy, literacy, digital rights and information access” (Unsworth, 2014). Regardless of Facebook attempting to address this issue currently, and the CEO having to face the Congress soon regarding the data breach, it doesn’t change the fact that millions of people have been exposed with their personal data without their consent, and this can’t be taken back. Companies should have transparent, direct, and concise information policies that make sure to protect their consumers’ rights and privacy, so that the situation that Facebook experienced can be avoided. Through an effective information policy, businesses can successfully pick and choose the companies they associate with and how their media operates, helping to prevent any data breach issues.
Many consumers, domestically and internationally, discern unwelcome collection of their data to be a violation of their privacy. Uber is yet another company that recently experienced an enormous data breach, consisting of two hackers stealing the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of 57 million Uber users and the driver license numbers of 600,000 of their drivers (Armerding, 2018). Those who steal such significant personal information can greatly profit from it by exchanging it for funds within the black market where there is a whole industry for stolen data. The emerging medium of Internet provided an excellent and a more convenient way for marketers to sell and promote their products and services, but it also provided straightforward ways for hackers to access confidential data a company collects so they can profit from it, and for some companies to instate general and vague information policies so they can illegally profit from the personal data they collect. The issue of privacy and digital data protection mainly originated from businesses’ unfamiliarity in how Internet marketing works, and the fact that the coding language of the Internet can be learned by many people, making it effortless for them to access a system that is poorly built and poorly secured.
The unstopping data breaches that take place due to cybersecurity issues demonstrates how there is a “growing need for appropriate regulatory as well as technical action in order to bridge the gap between the automated surveillance by Internet devices and the rights of individuals who are often unaware of the potential privacy risk to which they are exposed” (Weber, 2015). By implementing regulatory information policies, governments and companies can ensure the privacy of consumers within business transactions. An effective method to accomplish this is to use the Communication Privacy Management Theory (CPM theory). “CPM is a rule-based theory that proposes that individuals develop rules to aid decisions about whether to reveal or conceal private information and thus how to best protect personal privacy” (Metzger, 2007). The CPM theory declares that consumers form guidelines to assist them in avoiding making ungrounded decisions when disclosing their confidential information. Consumers utilize the theory by comparing the benefits and harms of disclosing their data to companies, and thus, would shy away from companies that have a reputation for data breaches. However, in a time where such things are happening in an increasing pace, it’s hard to foresee which company will be impacted and which will not. Thus, it’s ultimately up to the CEO of companies and governments to regulate information policies to fulfill their duty of protecting their consumers’ data.
The internet is a vast medium of communication. Not only does it have millions and millions of users, but users are able to communicate instantaneously as if they were next to each other in real-time, and it also allows users to communicate globally. The Internet being a global phenomenon is more of a reason why data breaches are a critical problem to all of society. Many companies that utilize the Internet for their marketing purposes, such as Facebook, Uber, Amazon, PayPal, and McDonalds, are companies that have established themselves internationally, with enormous customer bases in a diverse number of countries. Thus, data breach of such a globally established company would have global consequences, with the company having to face laws from separate countries. If businesses continue collecting their data electronically and saving them on systems that are accessible online or through technology, they need to start using tested security system on their processes, and not hesitate from spending the costs that come along with it. By rejecting to spend the needed funds on the privacy of consumers, companies can risk multiple data breaches, and build a reputation of being a discreditable company. It’s unfortunate that there’s always the risk of having one’s system hacked no matter how much security has been installed on it. As the internet grows every day, so does the knowledge of those whose aims are to benefit off others’ information in an illegal manner.
One of the most unprecedented and appealing elements of the CPM theory is the rationalization for a fresh way to consider the consequences of making a disclosure. By constantly keeping the CPM theory in mind and what the theory tries to explain, businesses can create an organizational environment where the privacy of their employees, users, and stockholders are protected, kept confidential, and understood. Although the CPM theory doesn’t provide a complete promise to fully protect companies and their data, it does pave a pathway for companies to understand why they need to protect their data at all costs, which could propel the companies to take certain measures to thoroughly address the cybersecurity issues within their business, and minimize the future occurrences of data breaches. Moreover, the CPM theory doesn’t only benefit companies, but it also individually benefits consumers by helping them decide how to disclose their information by teaching them to aim at maximizing benefits and minimizing damages when disclosing personal information. Emerging media and communications is an appropriate field to examine the impact of the issue of privacy and digital data protection because it is through the medium of the emerging media and means of communication, the Internet, that many of these problems were born from. Practitioners of the field can attempt help businesses and organizations to implement the CPM theory within their environment.
An interesting research that has been done to study the effectiveness of the CPM theory is the meta-analysis completed by Lemi Baruh, Ekin Secinti, and Zeynep Cemalcilar that studies online privacy concerns and privacy management. Within their research, 166 studies from 34 different countries were analyzed, which shows their acknowledgment of this issue as a global issue, and the analyzation included examining how “users concerned about privacy were less likely to use online services and share information and were more likely to utilize privacy protective measures” (Baruh, Secinti & Cemalcilar, 2017). Although their study’s introduction pointed at the switch from traditional mediums of communication to modern mediums of communication sometimes being a risky one due to there being consumers that are concerned with privacy issues, their findings state how those consumers will be attracted by companies who emphasize privacy management theories, such as the CPM theory.
Personally, being in the field of emerging media and communications while having a background in business and entrepreneurship has made me aware of the risks of switching one’s business to one that is on the Internet. However, as I have come to learn through the secure practices of companies like Google, it is possible to minimize security breaches if it is properly addressed, and ultimately, the benefits of using the Internet medium as a way of marketing outweighs the possible risks it brings. Marketing through the Internet and social media provides a personal experience for consumers where the company can address each issue individually. For example, many companies use the social media websites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to read comments and reviews on their products and services. On these websites, they can also reply to each of these comments, which also shows to other consumers how the companies are caring of their consumers’ issues, and is a way of promotion in itself. Even if companies aren’t on social media itself, just because of the very idea that the Internet provides, companies can indirectly have their products and services promoted at a higher rate. The Internet and social media have provided means for people to review products of their own will, and a single individual’s review on a product can have significant positive or negative impact. At least, if a company is involved with social media, they can react appropriately to such reactions, because sometimes giving no reaction is the worst thing a company can do. Consumers who are spending their hard-earned money on a company’s products and services expects a respected correlation between them that acknowledges the consumer choosing that company to spend their earnings.
As can be seen, as the Internet has emerged as a competitive, convenient, and profitable medium of communication and media, there also has emerged along with it a variety of problems concerning privacy and digital data protection of consumers. Although the switch that majority of the companies have done from traditional means of marketing to the modern mean of marketing, the Internet, has provided them with a more specified target of customers that promotes their brand in a more exclusive way, they are also risking their credibility and trustworthiness if they are failing to effectively protect the data of their consumers. Even major companies such as Facebook and Uber, that were targeted recently for their consumers’ data, goes on to show that this civic issue generally has critical domestic and international impact on the society. A way companies can tackle this issue is to implement the CPM theory into their organizational culture which will help them in being more aware and respectful of consumers’ privacy, which could possibly push them to take the necessary measures to secure their data. However, it’s also important that consumers themselves are aware of which company they are sharing their information with, as it’s easier for weakly secured companies to have their data breached than major, and known companies.
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