Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Presidential Campaign and Online Information about You

Companies use your online searching history to personalize the adds that show up in Google and the New York  Times, and now, the Romney and Obama campaigns are doing the same, reports Charles Duhigg of the New York Times on October 13th. According to the article, the campaigns are mining data on individuals, and then are using this data to try and get voters to the polls. In the weeks before the election, millions of voters will get calls from volunteers who will be guided by scripts with detailed information about your life. They will ask questions about how you are planning on spending election day, how you plan on getting to the nearest polling station near you, etc. Later that week, you might find that someone has divulged information about how frequently you or your neighbors have voted in the past. The  thought is (and research backs this up), if you are asked questions about voting, or know that your neighbor or friend is going to go and vote, you might be motivated to also get to the polls on election day.

In the article, both campaigns emphasized their dedication to voter's privacy, but consultants to both campaigns said they had bought demographic data from companies that study details like voter's shopping histories, dating preferences ,and financial problems, put cookies on voters' computers to see what kind of websites they visit, and examine exchanges on social networks to see what issues they care about.

This kind of data mining is not new, just new to presidential campaigns. But it does raise some more interesting ethical questions about if this kind of data should be harvested and used for these kinds of purposes. Is this use better that using it for marketing purposes? Worse? The same? Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Ethics Case for Sports Professionals...

We have been following the story for a few days now and thought it might be an interesting case for the blog.

According to a story on NPR on October 5, American speedskater Simon Cho has admitted to yielding to pressure from his coach, Jae Shu Chun, and tampering with another skater's blades at the World Short  Track Team Championships in Poland earlier this year.  Cho won a bronze medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and is now the world champion in the 500 meter short track event.

Cho claims that Jae Su Chun, the head coach of the U.S. Speedskating short track team, approached him at the March 2011 championship event in Poland and asked him to tamper with a Canadian rival's skates. Cho alleges that he refused to a number of times before he finally relented.

The article goes on to describe charges of physical, psychological, and verbal abuse that have been lodged against Coach Chun by current and former speedskaters from the U.S. team, and the power that a coach has over their athletes.

If  these allegations are proven to be correct, what kind of punishment do you think would be fair for Coach Jae Shu Chun? And perhaps more interesting, what, if any kind of punishment should Simon Cho face, remembering that he came forward on his own and admitted his wrongdoing, and taking into account the pressure he faced from his coach?