Case Privacy at Myfriends.CoM Since the creation of the Internet, privacy policies have been an…

Case

Privacy at Myfriends.CoM_

Since the creation of the Internet, privacy
policies have been an issue for many online companies, especially social
networks where users can widely share information to anyone around the world. A
recent and very successful start-up social network called MyFriends.com is
facing a major decision about its privacy policies and practices.

Users at MyFriends.com create a profile where they can insert their private
information, upload photos, and share them with their online friends.
MyFriends.com also takes advantage of the applications systems where users can

Case

Privacy at Myfriends.CoM_

Since the creation of the Internet, privacy
policies have been an issue for many online companies, especially social
networks where users can widely share information to anyone around the world. A
recent and very successful start-up social network called MyFriends.com is
facing a major decision about its privacy policies and practices.

Users at MyFriends.com create a profile where they can insert their private
information, upload photos, and share them with their online friends.
MyFriends.com also takes advantage of the applications systems where users can
play games with other users, and share interests between each other. Most
applications are developed by independent software developers who then make
their apps available to MyFriends.com users. The applications share the users’
information, as well as that of their online friends, with advertising and
Internet-tracking companies. This information may include the sex, age,
birthdate, location, income, shopping habits, and browsing habits of the users
and their friends.

One problem is that this information is shared for all users, including those
that chose the strictest level of privacy on their MyFriends.com settings. This
policy option was in place for users when MyFriends.com first went online and
it allowed users to communicate with their online friends while “opting out” of
all sharing of their information for commercial or other purposes. Hundreds of
thousands of users “opted out” of information sharing in this way. But because
the “referrer” technology built in to most applications shares this information
anyway, the strict privacy settings don’t apply to the use of the apps (games,
utilities, etc.) that make MyFriends.com so popular.

Senior managers at MyFriends.com have proposed three options to deal with this
problem:

A) Do nothing, and allow sharing of user
information for commercial purposes for all customers via applications,
including those who “opted out” of information sharing when they opened their
accounts.

B) Change the privacy setting options by
removing the strict non-sharing option and require all users to choose between
much less protective options that allow for either general information sharing
about users by MyFriends.com or for information sharing about application users
only.

C) Honor the strict privacy option by
requiring developers to update their applications so that users who have
selected to “opt out” from information sharing don’t have their information
shared any longer.

The managers have solicited feedback from employees and read comments by users
in online forums. Most of the feedback has supported greater privacy. But
enhanced user privacy will cost the company considerably more than doing
nothing. They have come together to hammer out a policy. What, they ponder,
should MyFriends.com do?

1. If you were an employee of MyFriends.com
which of these options would you recommend and why? Explain.

2. If you were a MyFriends.com user which
one of these options would you recommend and why? Explain.

3. What policy do you believe Deborah
Johnson would support? Why?

4. In your view, are Internet users
entitled to any level of privacy with respect to their online browsing, communicating,
and shopping behaviors? Why, or why not? If so, what information should be
protected and by whom?

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