Answer Google was highly unethical when they sent out a press release about Gmail services without mentioning their intention to insert advertisements in the emails or the details vis-à-vis process of selecting them. Google business is people centric and all stakeholders have the right to know whether their interests especially related to their privacy would not be violated. The email services have redefined communication with far reaching consequences for one’s personal and professional life. Putting advertisement within the highly private email address of the individuals without prior permission is ethically and morally wrong. Important information should have been disclosed.
Sergey’s arguments are not justified because scanning of emails by different service providers are designed to safeguard the interests of the users. Whereas, Sergey and Larry had hid the relevant information deliberately from the various stakeholders even though from the start, they had decided to make profit from Gmail services through the advertisements. The right to privacy is not only the legal right but also one of the most important human right issues that cut across race, culture and nationality. Placing ‘contextually relevant’ advertisement in emails still violates the privacy of individuals and is therefore neither justified nor ethically correct.
Yes. When emails are scanned for ‘contextual information’ by the computers, it lessens the impact of invasion of privacy. The confidential
information of the persons has fewer chances of being exploited by vested interests like terrorist organizations, business rivals etc. At the same time, it is important that it must be emphasized as to how the just picks up some main words from the mails to correlate with the advertisements so as to avoid intruding into the private emails of users.
Providing one gigabyte storage memory to the users is a market strategy to gain competitive advantage in the cut throat environment of global businesses. The company has not given it in lieu of using their emails for making profit by placing ‘contextually relevant’ advertisements. Had Google given option to the users, it would have constituted fair trade. As it was not done by Sergey and Larry, insertion of advertisements within the private emails in Google’s Gmail services is unethical and wrong.
Google could have launched Gmail in a way that would have avoided media firestorm over privacy. They should have publicly disclosed their plans as to how the computers would scan contextually relevant information so as to put the advertisements in users’ emails. Privacy clause is vital ingredient of internet based services and full disclosure of the process would have greatly relieved the anxiety of the users regarding their privacy and fear of misuse of their confidential information.
Media Frenzy could also have been avoided by promoting the concept of advertisement during the launch. The main objective of all business is profit making which it does by satisfying its customers through products and services that meet their requirements. Hence, the dissemination of information to the users as to how the advertisement could facilitate their business and personal goals, could have given Google an edge over media frenzy. Indeed, the disclosure would have benefited the users as well as Google.
Case study. Stumbling Over Gmail