Free Apps For Data Case Discussion Ethics case – Read the ethics guide on page 110 and BRIEFLY answer questions 2a, 2b, 2c, 4a, 4b. Who was getting this da

Free Apps For Data Case Discussion Ethics case – Read the ethics guide on page 110 and BRIEFLY answer questions 2a, 2b, 2c,
4a, 4b. Who was getting this data? What were they using it for? All of a sudden, these free apps don’t
look as attractive to you—as a consumer. Someone already stole your idea—and your data.
Permissions
Super-Bright
LED Flashlight
Tiny Flashlight +
LED
Flashlight
Brightest LED
Flashlight
X
6
Color
Flashlight
Brightest
Flashlight Free
?
Ethics Guide
8
Super Bright
Flashlight
High-Powered
Flashlight
X
?
X
X
X
?
Take pictures and videos
Receive data from Internet
?
?
X
?
X
X
?
?
?
?
X
?
Control flashlight
Change system display settings
Modify system settings
Prevent device from sleeping
View network connections
X
?
?
Free Apps For Data
X
?
?
?
X
?
X
X
X
?
X
?
?
?
Full network access
X
X
?
X
X
?
X
?
Run at startup
?
Control vibration
X
x
X
Retrieve running apps
Modify or delete the
contents of your USB
storage
X
X
?
Read the contents of
your USB storage
?
X
?
View Wi-Fi connections
?
X
?
Read phone status
and identity
X
X
X
Read Home settings
and shortcuts
?
?
Write Home settings and
shortcuts
X
?
Disable your screen lock
Install shortcuts
Uninstall shortcuts
X
X
?
?
Approximate location
?
?
Precise location
?
?
Disable or modify status bar
?
You’re sitting in your Introduction to MIS class, and the professor starts talking
about how profitable software development can be. He points out that billionaires like
Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Larry Page (Google), and Mark Zuckerberg
(Facebook) all made their fortunes by developing useful software. But a vocal classmate
jumps in and points out that he’s never paid any of those people a penny. He uses Google
Search, Gmail, and Facebook all for free. Yes, he uses Microsoft Office, but it’s the free
online version through OneDrive. Even the apps on his smartphone are free.
Then comes the perennial question, which also happens to be a major point
of frustration for the tech industry: How do you make money from free apps? The
professor says something about capturing market share, potential income, and future
innovation. You’re not buying it. You’re interested in real income, not potential income.
Nick the Data Broker
The person sitting next to you, Nick, starts smiling broadly and nods his head. He’s in
your group for your big class project. He leans over and whispers, “If you’re not paying
for it, you are the product. Data is where you make money, not software. Give them
the software, take the data, and make the money. It’s simple.”
You’re a little confused at first. But then you think back to last Wednesday
when you first met Nick. He said he was coming back to school to get a degree in
MIS because he needed the technical knowledge for his new job with his brother’s
company. He explained that his brother was a data broker (sometimes called an
information broker). He buys data about individuals from companies and then sells
it to other companies for a profit. It sounded like they were doing really well. Before
you could even ask if it was legal or ethical, Nick quipped, “Yes, of course it’s legal.
Everyone does it.” He had obviously gotten this question before.
But was Nick right? He isn’t a billionaire like Bill Gates. Nick was only concerned
with buying and selling data. He wasn’t interested in application development. But
he did make a good point, and it got you thinking. What if you started a business that
made applications that were designed to collect individual data? You could make
dozens of useful apps, collect individual data, and then sell it to Nick.
But what data would Nick pay for? How much of it could you get? He wouldn’t
care about gaming data. But he would pay for data about user behavior like which Web
sites they visit, where they’re located, who their friends are, and what they purchase.
Flashlight Apps
At lunch, you do a few searches about how mobile applications can access data on
smartphones. It turns out that users just have to grant the pplication permission(s),
and it can access any data on the phone. Could that be right? Any data? This could be
a gold mine. You get excited at the prospect of harvesting thousands of terabytes of
data and selling them to Nick.
But then you find a threat report by Snoop Wall looking at the permissions required
by the top 10 flashlight apps for Android smartphones.27 The results were shocking.
All of these apps did more than just turn a light on and off. The table below lists the
permissions required by each app. Why would your flashlight need your GPS coordinates?
Source: Snoop Wall, Snoop Wall Flashlight Apps Threat Assessment Report.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Consider the decision to create a free
application designed to harvest individual data.
a. Is this decision ethical according to the cat-
egorical imperative (pages 20-21)?
b. Is this decision ethical according to the utili-
tarian perspective (pages 46–47)?
c. How would users react if they knew their
data was being harvested in exchange for a
free app?
2. Suppose Google becomes aware that apps in
the Google Play store are harvesting user data
unrelated to the function of the application.
a. Does it have a legal obligation to find out
which apps are harvesting data inappropriately?
b. Does it have an ethical obligation to find out
which apps are harvesting data inappropriately?
c. Does Google provide free apps in exchange
for individual data? Why?
3. How hard should Google work at curating
apps in Google Play to ensure that appropriate
permissions are set?
4. In 2014, Symantec found that 17 percent of all
Android apps were malware in disguise.28 But a
report by Google found that less than 1 percent
of all Android devices had a potentially harmful
application installed. 29
a. Is it ethical for Google to remove applications
it considers inappropriate? Consider both the cat-
egorical imperative and utilitarian perspectives.
b. Is it ethical for Google to limit permissions for
certain applications? Consider both the categori-
cal imperative and utilitarian perspectives.
110

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