A Case for Consumer Virtual Property

A Case for Consumer Virtual Property

Matt Hettche (Christopher Newport University, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-615-5.ch012
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While the Internet is generally regarded as a tool of consumer empowerment, recent innovations in e-marketing signal a disparity in the quality of knowledge that the e-buyer and e-seller each bring to the exchange process. Armed with sophisticated consumer tracking programs and advanced data mining techniques, the e-seller’s competitive advantage for anticipating consumer preference is quickly outpacing the e-buyer’s ability to negotiate fair terms for an equal trade. This chapter considers the possible threat that aggressive forms of electronic surveillance pose for a market economy in e-commerce and offers a framework for how marketing practitioners can protect consumer autonomy online. Using John Locke’s classic social contract theory as a model, I argue that information created by an end-user’s online activity is a form of ‘virtual property’ that in turn establishes a consumer’s right to privacy online.
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The Moral And Social Conditions Of E-Commerce

One truly amazing aspect of e-commerce is the incredible speed with which buyers and sellers are able to connect with one another. In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman suggests the way information is created, delivered, and exchanged online has both a “leveling” and “democratizing” effect for the global economy. (Friedman, 2004) The web’s leveling effect allows unprecedented opportunities for individuals to communicate across vast distances. For the first time in history, the average person can author digital content, reach a diverse audience, and sustain a meaningful dialogue with like-minded individuals. Traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and network television, are increasingly in direct competition with novices who self publish on the web. The web’s democratizing effect, in turn, is manifest in the way information is accessed and created. Online content is quite literally produced “by the people, for the people” in a way that (good or bad) breaks with longstanding printing and publishing traditions.

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