According to an onlinedictionary privacy is defined as “freedom from damaging publicity, publicscrutiny, secret surveillance, or unauthorized disclosure of one’s personaldata or information, as by a government, corporation, or individual: Ordinarycitizens have a qualified right to privacy.” This means that it is illegal toshare a person’s personal information to the public without the consent of saidperson. Ethics is defined as balancing profits with values. Positive ethicsmeans if it is legal, it is moral. Natural ethics is defined as; a law can belegal but unethical.
Legal is defined as “according to law, not in violation oflaw or anything related to the law” according to an online law dictionary. There are many different legal and ethical issues withinbusinesses. One of these issues being protecting the privacy of customers. Itis illegal to use personal information of the customer for the benefit of anindividual or business. It is also ethically wrong to do so as well. A couple years ago, there was a data breech with thepersonal information of customers at the phone provider AT&T.
The employeesat AT&T accessed customer data without correct approval from thesecustomers. The employees then sold this private information to a third party.The third party then used this information to unlock old cell phones that hadbeen stolen and sold them at a secondary market. The private information thatwas used was full names and social security numbers of around 280,000customers. The employees were from call centers in Mexico, Colombia and thePhilippines. The employees that gave up the unapproved information were paid todo so.
According to Rebecca R. Ruiz (2015),F.C.C.
officials said the parties who bought the data appeared to have beentrafficking stolen cellphones they sought to activate. They added that thepersonal information that employees had taken without authorization was used tosubmit 290,803 handset unlock requests for mobile phones through AT&T’swebsite. (p.1) The call center in Mexico had a person by thename of El Pelón who gave the employees names of customers and the employeesthen sold El Pelón the social security numbers that correspond with the namesgiven along with any other information that went along with these phones. Thisissue is both illegal and unethical. It is against the law to sell privatecustomer information to an unknown source without proper authorization.
It isalso unethical to be paid to do something like this to make a little extramoney. This situation presents multiple ethical theories such as; VirtueEthics, Contractarian Ethics and Ethical Egoism Ethics. VirtueEthics is defined as the expectation that we act with both honesty andintegrity. In this situation, Virtue ethics plays a role because the AT&T employeesdid not act with honesty and integrity.
Aristotle, Plato and Confucius believedthat people solve dilemmas dealing with ethics when they follow a set ofVirtues. Some virtues might be honesty, Justice, and integrity. In thesituation, AT&T employees broke the law which would not be consideredhonest or not acting with integrity. Gregory B. Sadler is the President and CEOof ReasonsIO.
According to Sadler (2011), “What makes somethinggood or bad, right or wrong, is that it actually embodies or promotes traitsculturally acknowledged as good or bad (e.g. courage, justice)” (P. 13). ContractarianEthics is defined as social contracts upholding each other’s rights. In thissituation, the rights of the customers were violated.
Since their personalinformation was breeched without their knowledge, their rights were not upheld.John Locke and John Rawls believed that if there were no laws and rules, wewould create rules as we lived our lives that would apply to everyone. In thebook, they use the example of not taking someone’s things without asking. Thisclosely relates to the example of AT&T because they used the personalinformation of the customers ‘without asking’. EthicalEgoism Ethics can be defined as not the government but the people, everyoneshould act in their own self-interest. Ayn Rand believed that we should all actin our own self-interest and not feel guilty about doing so, the world would bea 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 weredefinitely acting in their own self-interest. They used information of innocentpeople to get paid and persuaded into doing something illegal and unethical. Inthis situation there are not only ethical issues but legal ones as well.
Someof the laws that relate to this are The Right of Privacy, Criminal Law andbreach of contract. Accordingto the book ‘Business Law and the Legal Environment’ (2015) the Right ofPrivacy can be defined as “the right to be free from unreasonable intrusion byothers” (p.4). In the Situation the right to privacy was violated. Whenentering into a cell phone contract, there is always something that protectsyour rights as a customer. According to the Federal Communication Commission “Toprotect consumer privacy, the Commission’s rules require carriers/providers tofile reports, annually, to certify their compliance with the CPNI rules” (p.1).
These people were paying for their services and in return they were gettingviolated. Civillaws are one individual against another individual and usually result in damagepreparations. The opposite of a civil law would be a criminal law. The secondlegal issue would be the criminal law issue. Criminal law is people against agroup of people. As stated by the book mentioned above ‘Business Law and theLegal Environment’ Criminal laws are defined as “the laws that define wrongsagainst society” (p.5).
When a criminal law is violated they usually result infines and sometimes even a prison sentence. AT&T employees have committed acrime. This would be considered a wrong against society because multiple peoplewere affected by the actions of these people. Thelast law that is broken was the contracts.
Contracts are a set of promises thatprovide a legal remedy. When entering into a contract with a phone provider youare guaranteed privacy protection. According to AT&T(2014),AT&Tis committed to protecting its customers’ privacy and keeping customers’personal information safe.
C.C) for not protecting theprivacy of the customers. In Mexico, AT&T ended its contract with that callcenter. According to EverettRosenfeld (2015),Aspart of its settlement with the FCC, AT&T agreed to notify all customerswhose accounts were improperly accessed, and to pay for credit monitoringservices for those customers affected by the breaches in Colombia and thePhilippines, the agency said.Therefore, not only wasAT&T responsible for the fines but now they had to call and inform all ofthe people that were violated during this situation in both the Philippines andColombia.
The company also had to put out even more money to pay for creditmonitoring to insure these people that this would not happen again and theinformation that was given out would not be used for even more criminalactivities. This most likely costed them some of their customers and would alsoresult in them having a bad reputation. In conclusion, there are many different legal and ethicalissues when it comes to dealing with businesses. One of the most importantissues when dealing with customers in retail is protecting the privacy of allof the customers. Not only is it illegal but it is also unethical to usecustomers personal information for the benefit or self-satisfaction of oneindividual or group of individuals.
To begin with, some of the ethical theoriesin the situation with AT&T are virtue ethics, contractarian ethics andethical egoism ethics. Virtue ethics are as stated above, the expectation thatwe act with honesty, integrity and justice. Social contract ethics orcontractarian ethics is upholding each other’s rights. Finally, the last one isethical egoism ethics which as stated above is that everyone should act intheir own self-interest and to their own benefit and satisfaction. Some of thelaws associated with the AT case are; the right to privacy, criminal lawand breach of contract. The right to privacy is defined above as the right tobe protected and not have private information be intruded by other people.Criminal laws are wrongs against society or a group of people.
Contracts are alist of promises that provide legal preparation. All of the things stated aboveare components of the breech at AT. When all is said and done, all crimescommitted during this case were wrong and it is the responsibility of ATto take precaution for future incidents. It is also their responsibility toprovide protection for the customers and pay any fees demanded.