A Case for Consumer Virtual Property

A Case for Consumer Virtual Property

Matt Hettche (Christopher Newport University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-323-2.ch610
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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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