Unethical business research conduct

Unethical business conduct simply refers to the illegal business policies that are aimed at manipulating the consumers to believe in information that is based on unfair and untrue grounds so as to woe them to invest in the business’s operations. This is extremely harmful to consumers since they become victims of financial losses and their public image is tainted. One of the most evident components of unethical business research conduct is infringement of the consumers’ privacy.

This explains why this conduct is illegal. This is because privacy is a right to every consumer and it should not be overlooked or breached under any circumstance. In this essay, the meaning of privacy will be studied in a broad way. On the other hand, the controversy of what privacy means which even dates back in history, will be discussed. In addition to this, the misuse of this controversy by businesses to manipulate consumers will be discussed.

The true meaning of privacy is far from being achieved despite many scholars trying to explain this controversial phrase. Research has shown that privacy can be broken down into: physical, general and information privacy. Physical privacy can be taken to mean the space that every individual requires in the immediate environment they reside.

Information privacy is the right to confidentiality of an individual’s personal information which generally describes identity. Privacy may also be viewed to be both a right and a commodity. Whereby, if privacy is a right, it should not then be abused for the selfless gains of other people. If privacy is a commodity, one then has the freedom to use it for the purpose of self gain or even for the purposes of advertisement. To elaborate this further, an individual can take privacy as a state or even as a control.

Privacy as a state was first introduced by Westin (1967), who defined privacy through four distinct substates, namely: anonymity, solitude, reserve and intimacy. He further defined privacy as a state of ‘being apart from others.’ He also drew a parallel between privacy and alienation, loneliness, ostracism and isolation. In this parallel, he explained that privacy is sought after whereas others are avoided by individuals.

Privacy as a control, originated in Westin’s (1967) theories of general privacy, where Altman described it as ‘the selective control of access to self.’ On the other hand, it is inevitable to look at what privacy is not either. Concepts such as confidentiality, secrecy, anonymity and ethics have added to the confusion (Margulis 2003a, 2003b). These concepts have been explained to show what privacy is not.

Relationship between privacy and other constructs can also be used to explain more on what privacy entails. In the context of this subtopic, privacy can be discussed as a dependent variable or an independent variable. This discussion may however be limited to information privacy. The personal urge for individual privacy may be dependent on several factors.

Research has proven that people who have been victims of information abuse tend to be more cautious on where they post their personal information compared to people who have not yet been exposed to the same. It is also evident that people’s consciousness is triggered when they find out that their personal information has been used by organisations without their consent which always make them be more cautious to trust anybody with their private information.

Moreover, temperaments influence how people allow their information to be accessed. Research has shown that extroverts are more generous with their information compared to introverts. Women have also proven to be more cautious with their information compared to men.

Various individuals and companies use unethical research conducts for financial gain. A relevant illustration of this is the World Com telecommunications company which was engaging in fraudulent activities so as to acquire mass wealth in a short period of time.

The directors of this company used the information given by its auditors to manipulate consumers so that they can invest large loads of money in the company. The strategy used to convince its consumers was fraudulent and unethical. This happened because the company would alter the cumulative rise in profit to appear with a higher percentage than it really was. After people realised this, they invested in the stock market through buying the company’s shares.

Later, the company declared that it was bankrupt whereas in the real sense all the stock market funds had been allocated in a completely independent account from the company’s entity. The injured parties were the consumers and employees who had trusted the company with their information and money. The consumers incurred a devastating loss to the extent that most of them became bankrupt. Some got indebted for a very long time whereas others are still indebted.

This unethical conduct led to the collapse of this company alongside three other companies that they had bought. To the society, this was a major setback in terms of the services offered by the company and in terms of the revenue that was recovered from this company.


Margulis, S. T. (1977). Conceptions of Privacy: Current Status and Next Steps. Journal of Social Issues, 33(3), 5-21.

Westin, A. F. (2001). Opinion Surveys: What Consumers Have to Say About Information Privacy. Prepared Witness Testimony, 3-24.