Document Type

Closed Project

Publication Date

Fall 2018


Tugrul Daim

Course Title

Management of Engineering and Technology

Course Number

ETM 520/620


Internet users -- Statistics -- Data processing -- Ethical aspects, Database industry -- United States, Data analytics


Data tracking has become a regular aspect of consumers interaction with good and services providers. While most people understand that they have to share certain personal details to freely use apps and websites, we question what data is legitimately gathered in order to improve their experience and what can be a potential threat to the safety and privacy of consumers. This paper looks at how data is collected, stored, sold, analyzed, and regulated to answer the question of ethical issues in data tracking and analytics.

The biggest of collectors of data are governments, communication services, social media-based companies, and medical and academic researchers. There are many reasons for these companies to collect data. They can provide a richer user experience, verify that they’re complying with regulations, and verify applicant backgrounds. It also helps them build user profiles and research anomalies and trends in behavior. Large companies have invested millions of dollars in data centers, storage, and security to manage the data that they collect on their users. But with all of this security, is our data safe? There are thousands of examples of data breaches that would indicate that there is no way for companies to guarantee the data’s security. Knowing that any data can be hacked, is it ok for companies to keep so much data on their users? Data brokers are at the center of the market of data. They are compiling data from multiple sources about what you’re watching, your demographics, and things you are interested in. Using all of this, they are able to provide companies with information that helps them market their products and increase revenues.

Companies also use algorithms to analyze datasets and can create relationships and patterns about their consumers. Data can be used to give companies customer intelligence, which helps them understand their user base and know what recommendations and ads to show. Supply chain management uses data analytics to forecast demand and create more efficient routes. Quality management can track scrap and test results to reduce product failures and save money. Large sets of data allow companies to detect the risk and fraud potential of different users’ actions.

Data ethics revolves around the moral problems related to generating, recording, processing, sharing, and using data. There are many frameworks surrounding data ethics, but very little regulation making sure companies aren’t taking advantage of consumers. The European Union recently implemented the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which gives consumers more power over their data and visibility into what it’s being used for. It also forces companies to delete data when requested, and gives the government recourse for fines and punishment if the regulations are broken.


This project is only available to students, staff, and faculty of Portland State University

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