Should Companies Be Allowed to Collect Data on Non-Users?

There is still continued interest in Facebook and how it is using our data and the ethicality of it. It appears that it doesn’t even matter if you’re a Facebook user. They still have access to your data. We asked our writers, “Should companies be allowed to collect data on non-users?”

Alex answers with a resounding “No way!” He notes that non-users might object to the company’s use of data on moral or ethical grounds, making a choice to be a non-user. “Treating a non-user like someone who just isn’t a user yet but inevitably will be is categorically wrong.”

Phil explains that “collecting data on people is one of the most important issues of the 21st century,” as “companies continue collecting data from as many people as they can as a business or marketing asset.” These companies are most always in countries outside the legal framework where the data is being collected. He sees it as a near-unsolvable problem. “We should all be very concerned who has our data and what can be done to secure it in the future.”

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“Data integrity should ultimately be the responsibility of the user,” states Miguel. He sees no harm in data collection as long as “it doesn’t result in catastrophic consequences to the individual or person.” But that doesn’t mean the process shouldn’t be transparent. “Anything that offers people more control over their presence online should be welcome.”

Simon feels it somewhat depends on how much permission the user has given as well as the control the users have. “If users have agreed to allow their data to be used by services outside the ones they have, and they have control over what’s used, then there really is no problem.” But when they start collecting information without explicit permission is where the trouble begins, and while it’s wrong, this will always be a practice regardless. “Information is big money these days, and some companies simply won’t want to bother with permission tickboxes and user controls over the information.”

Andrew realizes whether they’re allowed to or not, odds are that they will collect that data. “Regulating data collection probably won’t change the fact that it’s being done; it’ll just change the way it’s done.” He doesn’t think not allowing it is the solution, as it would be hard to control.

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He thinks the best-case scenario lies in innovation, “like decentralized technology that allows users to store their advertising profiles locally and request ads anonymously without having the data leave the user’s machine.” He also suggests users being able to know when their data is being accessed and how it was used. “The best you can really do in the information age is have some say” over where your data will inevitably wind up.

Ryan feels “data is worth more than gold and data collection is near Orwellian in creepiness.” He realizes “most folks are blissfully ignorant of data collections tactics and what is permitted by the law” and that “lawmakers see the boon to the economy and have made the decision to turn a blind eye to what these companies do.” He thinks it’s time the tech world is regulated like other businesses. But if they aren’t breaking the law, they’re not going to stop. “Laws and policies need to be put in place that protect the interests of end users and consumers.”

I think what is needed is for a larger public awareness. If people are more aware of their data being collected, which it seems the Facebook scandal has schooled everyone, then it will change the way they share their information, whether or not they are using that company. Knowledge is the key.

Do you have strong feelings on this topic? How do you think your data should be used by companies who can access it even though you have no affiliation with them? Should companies be allowed to collect data on non-users? Add your thoughts to our discussion in the comments below.

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