Businesses, particularly those in the world of online marketing and commerce, are increasingly applying analytics to customer data in order to tailor the user experience. But questions about big data ethics are popping up that could force some companies to rethink how they're analyzing customer data and using the findings. When data analysis results in different customers being offered different products or prices, there's the possibility for problems, according to some privacy experts.
"Determining whether someone is going to be a loyal customer is fine. But then if you're changing the way you treat your customer based on that, that's where the questions come in," said Pam Dixon, founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a research and policy analysis group in San Diego.
Most privacy advocates accept some amount of data gathering and analysis. Dixon, for example, said she has no problem with businesses using customer data analytics to predict churn or develop customer profiles for marketing. But when businesses start using personally identifiable customer data, such as names, addresses and Social Security numbers, to change pricing offers or the availability of services, they need to be more transparent and offer people the option to opt out, she said."