Tag Archives: laws

Is Privacy a thing of the Past?

Privacy. It is such a critical topic, yet it is also one that many consumers feel helpless about fixing. Who knows what we buy? What we want? Where we go? Well, as it turns out there a great number of companies, and government agencies, tracking us. And it is not limited to our purchasing behavior. There are a number of companies that can and do track the daily activities of employees also.

Everyone says they want privacy, but many people are unwilling or don’t know how to protect their online privacy. The issue is one that reaches beyond the individual and extends to the larger society. It encompasses devices including home security, smart phones, wearable devices, facial recognition, home speakers, smart TVs, automobiles, maps, social media, and more! And the crazy thing is that we often give permission to be tracked without realizing the implications to our privacy.

This is an issue that extends beyond consumer behavior and can also encompass how companies track employee behavior, beginning when we wake up and check our work email at home, and continuing monitoring activities throughout the day to track physical and online movement. Granted, some of the tracking is useful to protect against espionage and theft, but does it go too far?

Who’s watching who do what?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the issue of privacy in the Internet age. What are students’ concerns?
  2. There are several very compelling interactive graphics and videos that help illustrate this topic. Show these in class and have students take notes on each.
    1. It’s time to panic about privacy: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/opinion/internet-data-privacy.html?emc=edit_ct_20190411&nl=technology&nlid=6570397720190411&te=1
    2. Meet ‘Chet.’ His employer knows what time he work up today: https://www.wsj.com/graphics/company-tracking-employees/?mod=djemfoe
    3. Microchips for employees video: https://youtu.be/eX1KNlI40V8
  3. Discussion: Is privacy important? What can be done to protect individuals?
  4. Consider assigning students to research this topic. A number of interesting reports can be found at various sources.

Source: Bentley, E. and Krouse, S. (19 July 2019). Meet ‘Chet.’ His employer knows what time he woke up today. Wall Street Journal; Manjoo, J. (11 April 2019). It’s time to panic about privacy. New York Times.

 

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Are You Being Manipulated by E-Commerce Sites?

As on-line shoppers we often depend on the reviews, comments, and purchases by other shoppers to help guide our decision-making. We see how many “likes” a product has received, and if it performed according to the promised description. We might even like to score a great deal on a hot trend that others are snapping up. What does Suzy from San Francisco know that I don’t know?

A common message on shopping sites is that “four other people are looking at this offer right now” or “Suzy from San Francisco just saved $202 on her order!” or “You just missed this great deal!” As it turns out, there often is no “Suzy from San Francisco” online scoping out the same deal as you. The messages are often fake; these are an example of something called “dark patterns,” which are online tactics that manipulate users into doing things that might not otherwise do.

These dark patterns directly benefit the company, not the consumer, and can be regarded by many people as fraud. (This happened to me recently when updating a standard software program – I kept clicking “next” without realizing that it was modifying my computer preferences!)

Lest we regard ourselves as lazy, consider that people do not read every word on every page all the time. We pick up on patterns and make assumptions. A “dark pattern” makes it difficult for the user to do something that does not benefit the company (such as cancelling an account). Companies can use color and design to mislead or trick users. A recent study from Princeton University used software to scan more than 10,000 sites. They found that more than 1,200 of the sites used tactics identified as “dark patterns.”

Here are some examples of dark patterns:

  • Sneak into basket – something is added to your basket because you didn’t opt-out
  • Roach motel – trying to get out of something such as a subscription service
  • Price comparison prevention – that makes it hard to compare the price of an item with another item
  • Disguised ads – that appear as content or navigation in order to gain clicks

Consumers need transparency from companies, not tricks to make us buy more.

Which dark pattern have you experienced?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students. Who checks review prior to buying something online?
  2. View video at Dark Patterns: https://www.darkpatterns.org/
  3. What have been the students’ experiences with dark patterns?
  4. Discuss the ethical considerations of marketing.
  5. Are dark patterns legal? Are dark patterns ethical?
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team select an e-commerce site and review how to set up an account, cancel an account, and more.
  7. How many of the dark patterns can they find?

Source: Valentino-DeVries, J. (24 June 2019). How e-commerce sites manipulate you into buying things you may not want. New York Times.

 

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Kitty Hawk’s Air Taxi

It seems that a number of companies are taking to the air and working on new transportation methods. A significant new entry vying for a place in the sky is Kitty Hawk, a company financed by Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO, Larry Page. (Kitty Hawk is run by Sebastian Thrun who started Google’s autonomous car unit as director of Google X.) The company has been working somewhat stealthily in New Zealand, testing a new type of fully electric, self-piloting flying taxis.

New Zealand’s prime minister recently announced that it will test Kitty Hawk’s autonomous planes as part of an official certification process. The goal is to have a commercial network of flying taxis in New Zealand in three years. Things will be somewhat different in the U.S. though; the FAA allows test flights of autonomous vehicles, but there is no path to commercialize at this point in time.

Kitty Hawk’s first plane is Cora, a personal air taxi for everyday use. The plane can take off and land like a helicopter, thus eliminating the need for a runway. It has the potential to land on spaces such as rooftops and parking lots. Cora combines self-flying software with expert human supervision. The all-electric vehicle is a pollution-free way to reduce commute time, and stress. Cora has a flight range of 100 kilometers and can fly 150 km/hour.

Look… up in the air… it’s a bird…. it’s a plan…. It’s Cora!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the future of transportation. Will it be on the ground?
  2. Show Kitty Hawk’s Web site: https://kittyhawk.aero/
  3. A video of the plane is available at: https://cora.aero/
  4. Discuss the components of an environmental scan: social, technology, economics, competition, and legal.
  5. Ask students what data they would want in order to make a marketing decision for Kitty Hawk.
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team use laptops to do general for one of the five components of the environmental scan.
  7. Debrief the exercise by compiling information on the white board. Does this give a good picture of the situation faced by Kitty Hawk?

Source:  Sorkin, A. (12 March, 2018). Larry Page’s flying taxis, now exiting stealth mode. New York Times.

 

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