Big Brother is Watching You.

In an age where social media is a fundamental tool in everyday life, we rarely think about the plethora of ethical issues that are present on these platforms. To have ethics is to have ‘moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017) – in basic terms, it is having the knowledge of what is right and wrong. One ethical issue that I find particularly significant is the issue of privacy on social media.

Social media has enabled us to freely voice our thoughts and has provided us with more information than ever before. However, this stream of information does not stop at a simple google search, or an articulate debate on twitter, but also includes a vast amount of our own personal information that can be exploited by businesses and fraudsters.

Think about it. How many sites have you willingly entered in your personal details? How many businesses now have access to your cookies and browsing history?

 Personally, I’ve lost count.

It has become second nature for us to accept terms and conditions without reading the 40-odd pages that may contain major breaches to our rights. A simple click of ‘I accept’ can strip you of your privacy; and as this video explains, leaves the door open for anyone to sell or take your personal details, without you even knowing! Of course, this can be seen as a cynical view, therefore, I have created a visual of the pros and cons of the online collection of your personal information via cookies:

Pros and cons

Moreover, breach of online privacy is not just limited to businesses. The ‘Snoopers Charter’ law would ‘require web and phone companies to store everyone’s web browsing histories (…) and give the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data’ (Travis, 2016). As Greenwald explains, it is common for people to retort that ‘there is no real harm that comes from this large-scale invasion because only people who are engaged in bad acts have a reason to hide and care about their privacy’ (Greenwald, 2014). But despite claims of ‘increasing national security’, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World-Wide Web, argues that it undermines our fundamental rights online and instead of protecting us, puts us at even greater risk.

Defining ethical practices is therefore difficult. Where intentions may initially be ethical; tailoring user’s online experience or safeguarding a nation, there comes a point where these agencies cross an ethical line. For me, this line has been crossed, our information is passed on like an online game of pass the parcel; and with government surveillance increasing, I would even argue that this mass privacy invasion is almost synonymous with the dystopian world described in Orwell’s 1984. After all, Big Brother is Watching You.

Word Count: 464 words


Cellan-Jones, R. (2016). ‘Snoopers law creates security nightmare’ – BBC News. [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Evans, M. (2016). Cyber crime: One in 10 people now victim of fraud or online offences, figures show. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Greenwald, G. (2014). Transcript of “Why privacy matters”. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Liu, Y. (2012). The Pros and Cons of Cookies: A Google Story – Internet Marketing Inc. [online] Internet Marketing Inc. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

LogicLounge, (2017). Do We Have Privacy Online?. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Orwell, G. (1949). 1984. 1st ed.

Oxford Dictionaries. (2017). ethics – definition of ethics in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017]. (2011). Cookie Definition. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Travis, A. (2017). ‘Snooper’s charter’ bill becomes law, extending UK state surveillance. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Big Brother is Watching You.

5 thoughts on “Big Brother is Watching You.

  1. pmbatchelor says:

    Hi Faazila,

    Thank you for an interesting and thought-provoking read. I particularly liked how you provided a balanced argument, outlining both the pros and cons of personal data collection in relation to ethics.

    As outlined in this article, there has been a recent debate about whether the internet privacy rules protecting consumer data should be implemented or repealed. Taking a similar stance as quoted in your post, Sir Tim Berners-Lee responded to this by saying that selling the browsing habits of consumers is “disgusting”. However, as you stated in your post, the use of consumer data is particularly important for marketing and advertising.

    In your view, do you agree with Sir Tim Berners-Lee? From a marketing perspective, do you feel that collection of personal data for use in advertising is necessary or a step too far? I think the key issue here is whether consumers have a choice in how their data is being used. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!



  2. Hi Patricia,

    Thanks for your input, I really appreciate it.

    I must admit, as a marketing student, the issue regarding the use of consumer data is one that I am conflicted on. Cookies and other data collection methods not only help firms to market effectively and help to boost their reach, but they also benefit the consumer; advertising has become more and more tailored to the user.

    However, without my degree’s bias, I definitely question the ethical nature of this intrusion of privacy to obtain such data. As we increasingly rely on the internet, I find it particularly disturbing that we cannot easily opt out of this ‘data collection’, and as mentioned in my original post, I agree with Sir Tim Berners-Lee in saying this ‘undermines our fundamental rights online’.

    So to answer your question, I believe that the collection of personal data for advertising is necessary, but I would argue that the current methods are unethical. We as consumers should choose who has our information and our information should never be sold without our consent.

    I hope that answers your question,

    Once again, thank you,


    1. pmbatchelor says:

      Hi Faazila,

      Thank you for your thoughtful response!

      As someone with a keen interest in marketing, I too feel conflicted on the issues of privacy and consumer data. You raise a good point that not only do companies benefit from utilising consumer data, but consumers also benefit through a more personalised web experience and greater convenience through the use of cookies – something I think many users take for granted. Your infographic on the pros and cons of cookies greatly aided my understanding of the debate, so thank you!

      With this said, I absolutely agree that the issue here lies in the fact that the collection of personal data is carried out unethically. Often, consumers have no choice in how their personal data is used, particularly with no easy ‘opt out’ feature as you say.

      I feel that another issue here is awareness of the ethical issues surrounding social media. Before taking this module, I hadn’t given much thought to how cookies work or what personal data is being collected. This video highlights some different opinions on the issue of data collection via social media. It’s clear that a lot of students either haven’t really considered the issues, or are worried by the issues but do not know how to protect themselves. Do you think more should be done to raise awareness of these issues?

      Thanks again,


      1. Excellent points Patricia, I really enjoyed that video; very informative, thanks!

        I am completely in favour of raising more awareness, I believe that we should start ‘web wellbeing’ classes early on at schools so that kids are fully aware of these issues and how to protect themselves completely; especially now that children are using the internet from the age of three! :

        I also believe that there should be classes for adults who have no idea about the unethical uses of social media; discussing this on blogs like these is a really great way of generating conversation and educating one another. In fact, if you look out for my reflection blog post; I will touch on how we can better protect our information against cookies!



  3. pmbatchelor says:

    Hi Faazila,

    Thank you again for your response!

    I’m shocked to hear that children start using the internet at the average age of three! Whilst I can see benefits of this, such as to develop digital literacies (something we explored in Topic 1), I think this is particularly troubling when it comes to social media. For example, this article illustrates that many children unknowingly sign over their digital rights to their private messages and pictures. As we have discussed, there is no way that children, and even adults, can effectively manage their online privacy if they are unaware that they are giving personal information away. It seems that from a young age, we learn to simply accept T&Cs without giving them a second thought, so I think more should be done to raise awareness of these issues.

    I think a ‘web wellbeing’ class would be an excellent step forward. The use of blogs to raise awareness in adults is also a great suggestion, I have certainly learnt a lot about privacy and other online issues by taking this module. Furthermore, I think campaigns addressing these issues should look beyond simply raising awareness and instead promote practical ways in which we can deal with our online privacy. I look forward to reading you post regarding protection from cookies!

    Many thanks,


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