Should companies collect information about customers?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am


Matthew Murchie, 18, Imperial College London

Advances in communications technology have made it a lot easier to access all kinds of information about us.

We can be tracked online as well as on many of the mobile devices we carry.

A by-product of such inter-connection is that companies can easily find out more about their customers. They can access our personal details and also learn about our shopping preferences and everyday habits.

Some companies may decide to store and analyse this wealth of data about us.

In particular, social networking sites, telephone service providers and insurance companies have come under fire for storing their customers' personal information.

Yet despite the complaints, how often is it that companies that collect such information about their customers use it in dishonest ways?

We have to ask whether by simply compiling data about their consumers, companies are acting unethically. In reality, it's very rarely that companies sell such information to third-parties for their own profit.

Companies usually collect data about their costumers to improve their services.

By learning of their customers' preferences, they can cater to their needs more effectively.

Data on individuals also enables companies to target each customer with specific services and products.

In short, companies' collection of data about their current or potential customers is not a threat to us. Rather, such a practice can boost a company's relationship with its customers.

Elise Choi, 16, Sai Kung Sung Tsun Catholic School

Before we agree to become a company's client, we are usually asked to fill in a form, giving our name, address, date of birth and and other details.

Yet we cannot always be sure that companies will not make use of our information in unethical ways.

Companies say they need such information to keep in touch with customers. Yet often the fine print - written in tiny letters at the bottom of application forms - state that companies reserve the right to pass such data to other businesses.

In effect, by using such methods, they are deceiving us.

Before we know it, we are faced with a flood of promotional calls and advertising messages from other businesses. This can be a real nuisance.

Recently it was revealed that a company had sold its customers' private information to other businesses for millions of dollars.

The case highlighted the need for the protection of private information. When we sign a contract with a business, we assume it will keep our details confidential. By selling our data to others, some companies violate our privacy.

It is hard for such companies to win back our trust. Hong Kong will get a bad name if businesses are found to have violated their customers' trust.

In addition, private individuals are often powerless against corporations that decide to sell their information.

As a result, I believe that the safest course of action would be to prevent companies from collecting information about their customers.

As customers, we should also exercise due caution when we give out our details.