Technology and Privacy Advancements in Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Based on this information, supermarkets can highlight certain areas of their floor space over others. The supermarkets can thus charge higher prices for the more premium spaces, giving suppliers a choice of where to park their products.

This practice is a win situation for supermarkets, allowing them to meet their duties to their stockholders and their employees. In fact, any increased earnings from the premium display places can be passed on to customers in the form of savings as well. Thus, it can be argued that the use of premium display areas can allow a supermarket to cater more efficiently to the needs of its customers, as well as its employees.

It is important to note that the use of premium space does not deny customers one of their most important rights in a supermarket - the right to make an informed choice. This paper has argued that given the laws against monopolies, for example, supermarkets should provide customers with a choice of products. Supermarkets also cannot highlight a brand by being dishonest about its abilities (i.e., "This bread cures baldness!"). A savvy customer or one who prefers another brand is certainly free to look at the shelves.

Thus, the display cases in no way violate a customer's right to make a free and informed choice.

Neither does the use of music and lights violate a customer's right to make an informed choice.

As long as customers have access to different products, are in a safe environment, and are not being unduly influenced by untrue claims, the use of music and piped-in scents do not interfere with their rights to shop in a safe environment.

It would be a different story if special lights were used to conceal evidence of bad meat or to make it difficult for customers to choose between fresh and not-so-fresh heads of lettuce. However, if supermarkets meet the duties that have been specified above, then the use of extra measures such as pleasant music does not violate a customer's rights.

The greatest concern over the use of recording devices and the tracking of customers' purchases relates to privacy. Privacy activists have noted that watching shoppers as they shop is tantamount to violating a person's right to privacy. This right can still be violated, even with the signs posted that people entering the store's premises may be videotaped for marketing purposes.

One concern is that shoppers may not notice the sign. This can be solved by prominently positioning a sign, such as on the supermarket sliding door. Also, periodic announcements can be made via the pipe-in music, reminding customers that they are being filmed for marketing purposes. Those who do not consent are thus free to shop elsewhere.

The areas where cameras are installed are also important, if a store is to maintain the privacy of its customers. Since they are solely for market research, cameras should be limited to the shopping floor. There should be no filming in other areas, such as the restrooms. Filming in cashier lines can also raise privacy concerns, making customers feel unsecure about their credit card information. There may be similar concerns about filming in the customer service area, because it is here where customers can raise complaints and issues.

It is also important to note that supermarkets should be careful with the information that they gather. While it is appropriate to use demographic data (age, gender) to track purchases for marketing purposes, it is highly unethical for supermarkets to share this information for other purposes unrelated to marketing. Thus, the activities that are recorded by camera cannot be used for other purposes, such as blackmailing a customer seen purchasing potentially embarrassing items (birth control or mental health pills, for instance). It is also unethical to send the film clips to "America's Funniest Videos" without a customer's consent. In the instance that the clips will be used for material other than marketing and may be viewed by the public, then the express consent - perhaps in the form of signed wavers - would be needed.

In conclusion, there are man ways for supermarkets and retailers to use technology to conduct market research, without violating a customer's privacy. By observing ethical guidelines, such as providing customers with choices and taking care to film in certain areas, supermarket shopping can be fruitful experience for all parties…

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