According to a third party. The third party

According to an online
dictionary privacy is defined as “freedom from damaging publicity, public
scrutiny, secret surveillance, or unauthorized disclosure of one’s personal
data or information, as by a government, corporation, or individual: Ordinary
citizens have a qualified right to privacy.” This means that it is illegal to
share a person’s personal information to the public without the consent of said
person. Ethics is defined as balancing profits with values. Positive ethics
means if it is legal, it is moral. Natural ethics is defined as; a law can be
legal but unethical. Legal is defined as “according to law, not in violation of
law or anything related to the law” according to an online law dictionary. There are many different legal and ethical issues within
businesses. One of these issues being protecting the privacy of customers. It
is illegal to use personal information of the customer for the benefit of an
individual or business. It is also ethically wrong to do so as well.

            A couple years ago, there was a data breech with the
personal information of customers at the phone provider AT&T. The employees
at AT&T accessed customer data without correct approval from these
customers. The employees then sold this private information to a third party.
The third party then used this information to unlock old cell phones that had
been stolen and sold them at a secondary market. The private information that
was used was full names and social security numbers of around 280,000
customers. The employees were from call centers in Mexico, Colombia and the
Philippines. The employees that gave up the unapproved information were paid to
do so.

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 According to Rebecca R. Ruiz (2015),

F.C.C.
officials said the parties who bought the data appeared to have been
trafficking stolen cellphones they sought to activate. They added that the
personal information that employees had taken without authorization was used to
submit 290,803 handset unlock requests for mobile phones through AT&T’s
website. (p.1)

  The call center in Mexico had a person by the
name of El Pelón who gave the employees names of customers and the employees
then sold El Pelón the social security numbers that correspond with the names
given along with any other information that went along with these phones. This
issue is both illegal and unethical. It is against the law to sell private
customer information to an unknown source without proper authorization. It is
also unethical to be paid to do something like this to make a little extra
money. This situation presents multiple ethical theories such as; Virtue
Ethics, Contractarian Ethics and Ethical Egoism Ethics.

Virtue
Ethics is defined as the expectation that we act with both honesty and
integrity. In this situation, Virtue ethics plays a role because the AT&T employees
did not act with honesty and integrity. Aristotle, Plato and Confucius believed
that people solve dilemmas dealing with ethics when they follow a set of
Virtues. Some virtues might be honesty, Justice, and integrity. In the
situation, AT&T employees broke the law which would not be considered
honest or not acting with integrity. Gregory B. Sadler is the President and CEO
of ReasonsIO. According to Sadler (2011), “What makes something
good or bad, right or wrong, is that it actually embodies or promotes traits
culturally acknowledged as good or bad (e.g. courage, justice)” (P. 13).

Contractarian
Ethics is defined as social contracts upholding each other’s rights. In this
situation, the rights of the customers were violated. Since their personal
information was breeched without their knowledge, their rights were not upheld.
John Locke and John Rawls believed that if there were no laws and rules, we
would create rules as we lived our lives that would apply to everyone. In the
book, they use the example of not taking someone’s things without asking. This
closely relates to the example of AT&T because they used the personal
information of the customers ‘without asking’.

Ethical
Egoism Ethics can be defined as not the government but the people, everyone
should act in their own self-interest. Ayn Rand believed that we should all act
in our own self-interest and not feel guilty about doing so, the world would be
a better place. According to Sadler (2011) “What makes something good or bad,
right or wrong, is that it satisfies one’s desires, or meets one’s needs”
(p.8). In this situation, the employees at AT&T and the third party were
definitely acting in their own self-interest. They used information of innocent
people to get paid and persuaded into doing something illegal and unethical.

In
this situation there are not only ethical issues but legal ones as well. Some
of the laws that relate to this are The Right of Privacy, Criminal Law and
breach of contract.

According
to the book ‘Business Law and the Legal Environment’ (2015) the Right of
Privacy can be defined as “the right to be free from unreasonable intrusion by
others” (p.4). In the Situation the right to privacy was violated. When
entering into a cell phone contract, there is always something that protects
your rights as a customer. According to the Federal Communication Commission “To
protect consumer privacy, the Commission’s rules require carriers/providers to
file reports, annually, to certify their compliance with the CPNI rules” (p.1).
These people were paying for their services and in return they were getting
violated.

Civil
laws are one individual against another individual and usually result in damage
preparations. The opposite of a civil law would be a criminal law. The second
legal issue would be the criminal law issue. Criminal law is people against a
group of people. As stated by the book mentioned above ‘Business Law and the
Legal Environment’ Criminal laws are defined as “the laws that define wrongs
against society” (p.5). When a criminal law is violated they usually result in
fines and sometimes even a prison sentence. AT&T employees have committed a
crime. This would be considered a wrong against society because multiple people
were affected by the actions of these people.

The
last law that is broken was the contracts. Contracts are a set of promises that
provide a legal remedy. When entering into a contract with a phone provider you
are guaranteed privacy protection.

According to AT&T
(2014),

AT&T
is committed to protecting its customers’ privacy and keeping customers’
personal information safe. Our company has a robust data protection program and
requires the protection of customer privacy within our policies, which include
the AT&T Privacy Policy and the Code of Business Conduct. (p.1)

This shows us that
AT&T tells us that they are dedicated to protecting the privacy of their
customers. Where was the protection promise when thousands of people had their
information used for criminal purposes? This is not only an illegal situation
but it is also a breech of contract which presents a whole other situation in
itself.

As
a result, to the data breech, AT&T was fined with Twenty-Five Million
dollars by the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C) for not protecting the
privacy of the customers. In Mexico, AT&T ended its contract with that call
center.

According to Everett
Rosenfeld (2015),

As
part of its settlement with the FCC, AT&T agreed to notify all customers
whose accounts were improperly accessed, and to pay for credit monitoring
services for those customers affected by the breaches in Colombia and the
Philippines, the agency said.

Therefore, not only was
AT&T responsible for the fines but now they had to call and inform all of
the people that were violated during this situation in both the Philippines and
Colombia. The company also had to put out even more money to pay for credit
monitoring to insure these people that this would not happen again and the
information that was given out would not be used for even more criminal
activities. This most likely costed them some of their customers and would also
result in them having a bad reputation.

            In conclusion, there are many different legal and ethical
issues when it comes to dealing with businesses. One of the most important
issues when dealing with customers in retail is protecting the privacy of all
of the customers. Not only is it illegal but it is also unethical to use
customers personal information for the benefit or self-satisfaction of one
individual or group of individuals. To begin with, some of the ethical theories
in the situation with AT&T are virtue ethics, contractarian ethics and
ethical egoism ethics. Virtue ethics are as stated above, the expectation that
we act with honesty, integrity and justice. Social contract ethics or
contractarian ethics is upholding each other’s rights. Finally, the last one is
ethical egoism ethics which as stated above is that everyone should act in
their own self-interest and to their own benefit and satisfaction. Some of the
laws associated with the AT case are; the right to privacy, criminal law
and breach of contract. The right to privacy is defined above as the right to
be protected and not have private information be intruded by other people.
Criminal laws are wrongs against society or a group of people. Contracts are a
list of promises that provide legal preparation. All of the things stated above
are components of the breech at AT. When all is said and done, all crimes
committed during this case were wrong and it is the responsibility of AT
to take precaution for future incidents. It is also their responsibility to
provide protection for the customers and pay any fees demanded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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