The onset of the internet revolutionized the concept of target marketing, whereby online companies are making use of Customer Relationship Management to gather personal data to facilitate their marketing strategies (Foss & Woodcock, 2003). The ethical and legal issues associated with online marketing are imposed by the creation of database that contains personal information of customers that are to be used in the formulation of generalized marketing strategies. Therefore, there is a growing concern for privacy issues as a result of online marketing, especially in scenarios whereby by online companies base their target marketing strategies on the personal information gathered from their clients. This paper discusses the privacy issues that may arise as a result of target online marketing.
It is important that online marketing should follow the conventional marketing ethics in order to address the privacy issues that may arise as a result of exploiting the personal information gathered from their clients. The data protection laws does not warrant the use and disclosure of another individual’s personal data for any reason, as such online companies have the responsibility of ensuring that the personal data they have gathered are not vulnerable to exploitation by other parties in the due process of marketing. The increasing internet users implies that information that is stored online is vulnerable to attacks and exploitation by malicious users; therefore, online companies must ensure that such personal information should not leak in order to comply with the data protection laws, and avoid the occurrences of instances associated with privacy issues. The basic argument is that the vulnerability of personal data in the online databases owned by such companies is vulnerable to exploitation (Foss & Woodcock, 2003).
Survey scams are also a potential threat to privacy during target marketing by online marketing. Such companies must ensure that their clients are not susceptible to survey scams. Survey scams usually aim at exploiting the personal information provided by the customers. Survey scams mainly used by fake online companies or an imitation of the legitimate companies in order to gather personal data from the clients of a legitimate company, after which they may exploit clients basing on the data that they have provided (Hofacker, 2005). In addition, personal data is sensitive, implying that it must only be used for precise purposes for which they are collected. Spammers always misdirect such clients, which may not only be a big loss for the company, but also a breach of the data protection law by the company due to unauthorized access and exploitation of personal data. For instance, the instances at match.com whereby former clients have filed a lawsuit on account that its clients are being misdirected to have them pay for accessing their user profiles that have expired or designed by spammers on the company’s web site. Another instance is the E-bay, which is currently being investigated on claims that the company is breaching privacy laws by making it difficult to for its clients to get rid of their personal information from the company’s web site. This is a perfect example of a breach of data protection laws (Siskind & Klau, 2007).
It is vital for online companies that rely on the personal data of their clients for target marketing to guarantee the privacy of the personal data of their clients. This means that such companies must guarantee the legitimacy of such surveys, and that the collected data must be used for its precise purpose underlying data collection.
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