Topic 4

When Privacy Becomes a Problem

Ethics are a system of moral principles; they affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Therefore, ethical issues occur when a conflict between the languages of right and wrong are present. Following this, as social media creates a space to invade personal privacy, ethicality is becoming a greater concern within professional use of social media. Subsequently, the following paragraphs will address this further.

Why is privacy a problem?

Privacy is an ethical issue within business social media use because many Social Network Service (SNS) users do not understand the full implications of sharing information online. Correspondingly, social networks encourage users to adopt voluntary but imprudent, ill-informed and unethical sharing practices ,  which businesses exploit for their own personal and institutional benefits. This is exemplified below:

  1. Marketing strategies (Malicious cookies)

A cookie is used to identify users and prepare customized web pages. However, cookies can be malicious by tracking mass self-communication on social media to build a profile of your interests. Once this information has built up over time it is often sold to an advertising company.

chocolate chip cookies

Figure 1. Showcases the advantages and disadvantages of malicious cookies

  1. Government intelligence

Surveillance for the National Security Agency (NSA) involves scrutiny of social networks. However, a recent scandal reports that NSA officials use social media and other facilities to spy on lovers and not terrorist as reported below in Figure 2. This raises ethical concern because access to private information is being abused which demonstrates that policies on ethicality within government agencies are not being strictly adhered to and need to be revisited.

Figure 2. Displays case studies of NSA officials misusing access to private information

 3. Candidate discrimination

Social media is often used to employ and dismiss employees which is illustrated in the infamous case of Justine Sacco. But, is it fair to judge what someone intended to be private at a professional level? This appears reductive to the skills and competencies that the candidate can offer to the job and fails to acknowledge that personal and professional affairs are allowed to be kept separate. Additionally, this critique is also supported by (Lambert, Fisher & Phillips, 2016) who report that a violation of social media policies for social recruitment can result in court. Therefore, companies must ensure that they have a strict social media policy and stick to it. 

Celebrity use of social media

Furthermore, in a recent episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian admits that part of the reasons for her Paris robbery was due to oversharing on social media; which further emphasises that SNS users are not fully aware of the implications of sharing information online. Thus, greater education needs to be given on the dangers of oversharing on social media.  Here is a clip of her describing the attack to her sisters:

 Why is Privacy important?

Facebook has been a lightning-rod for criticism of its privacy practices (Spinello 2005), but it is just the most visible member of a far broader and more complex network of SNS actors with access to unprecedented quantities of sensitive personal data. Mark Zuckerberg states that privacy is no longer a social norm. However, does keeping up with social norms come at the expense of morality?

The following video addresses why privacy is important:

Overall, this post aimed to highlight that social media use encourages ill-informed and overindulging sharing practices which companies and opportunist often take advantage of. This raises ethical concern when information is provided for personal sharing is unknowingly used for institutional gain.

Word count:400


BBC (2017). BBC – Ethics – Introduction to ethics: Ethics: a general introduction. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Johnson, B. (2010). Privacy no longer a social norm, says Facebook founder. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Lambert, A., Phillips, and Fisher, (2017). 5 Ways Social Media Can Land Employers In Court – Law360. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Pierson, J. and Heymen, R. (1999). Social media and cookies: challenges for online privacy: info: Vol 13, No 6. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Spinello, R. (2005). Cyberethics: Morality and Law in Cyberspace. Journal of Information Ethics, 14(1), pp.70-90.

Vallor, S. (2017). Social Networking and Ethics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Washington Post. (2013). 5 Americans who used NSA facilities to spy on lovers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Figure references

Figure 1. Self-Produced on Canva

Figure 2. Self-Produced on Google Slides

Video 1.

E! Entertainment, (2017). KUWTK | Kim Kardashian West Explains Horrifying Paris Robbery Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].Video 2.

Video 2.

Ted Talk, (2014). Why privacy matters. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].


2 thoughts on “When Privacy Becomes a Problem

  1. Hi Raziya, I’d like to start by congratulating you on the level clarity shown within your blog making it a particularly easy and enjoyable read.

    You make some really interesting points about ‘cookies’ some of which I hadn’t previously thought of. I know my dad is particularly aware of cookies and I avidly remember from my time as a checkout girl in Waitrose, when I asked the customer if they had my Waitrose card to which I was greeted with a multitude of reasons as to why not, all of which I now see relate back to this very issue.

    Additionally, I really like you link to the Kardashian, it’s fascinating to see how aware people are of the issues posed by the Internet, of which I have only be made aware of through my time on the module.

    Finally, I know you mention how companies need to make polices and stick to them, but much like the point I make in my blog (, do you think it is possible to create a set of rules and guidelines that a variety of people will be able to adhere to given the complexities of an individual’s moral status? Maybe the advice from this website could be utilized? What do you think?

    I look forward to hearing your views.



    1. Hi Harriet,

      Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time out to read my post, I really do appreciate it.
      I’m glad you were able to relate the issues raised to your personal life especially in regards to the My Waitrose card and your dad’s prior awareness of the topic.

      In regards to your question, I do think that it is possible to set rules and guidelines that are universal to the majority’s moral codes; more so if they are made explicit before applying for the job. I mean surely people apply for jobs that align with their own ethos and values so it shouldn’t be too hard to adhere to rules if they are already congruent with your own personal beliefs.
      Additionally, these policies go deeper than an individual level but are also set in place to protect the company so where there is a conflict of interest employees can be rightfully dismissed.
      I had a look at the article you sent over and I think a lot of their points are a perfect way to get the ball rolling with this.




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