Thursday, March 26, 2009

RealAge: Ethical Information Collection?

I came across this article tonight and it seemed especially interesting after our discussion about information collection, privacy, and information design in class earlier today.

Online Age Quiz Is a Window for Drug Makers

The article explores the issues raised by the RealAge online test. This is a case in which information is being collected in a way that is currently legal, but may not be wholly ethical.

There are no criminals stealing credit card information, but instead large corporate interests using marketing data to sell products. The ethical design question lies in how the data collection process is represented to users.

The user experience emphasizes the potential benefit to end users of being more aware of the effect of life choices on their health and longevity. It minimizes the fact that the information users enter is being aggregated in a large marketing database. According to the article, there are also many opportunities to opt in for membership (which includes consent to be contacted concerning health-related products) that may not be apparent to typical users.

How would you assess a case like this in light of our earlier discussion? Are there opportunities to change the design of the user experience to be more transparent without losing the target audience? Comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. One option would be making the health related product information (emails, etc.) an added "benefit" in membership signup as opposed to having it be a dirty secret.

    Another one, (I can think of) would have the user know that information is being gathered, but instead, compensate the user for their time. Maybe a gift or samples of products?