Date of Conferral







Roger Wells


Consumer online activities can generate massive volumes of data that private companies may collect and use for business purposes. Consumer personal data need to be protected from unauthorized access and misuse. The specific problem is that consumers have little control regarding their data being collected and used by private companies. The purpose of this qualitative archival research was to explore business practices involving collection and use of consumer data without an individual’s consent. This study used the big data ethical conceptual framework to focus on various privacy issues, including those related to ownership, transparency, ethics, and consumer privacy laws. Archival documents were collected from United States government agencies and private companies. Collected archives included transcripts of U.S. Congressional hearings, witness statements, federal agency reports, privacy policy statements, data catalogs, and panel discussions on data privacy. Thematic data analysis was selected to code and identify common themes from collected documents. Findings revealed business practices of collecting and using consumer data were not transparent, third party companies obtained personal data without individuals’ knowledge, and consumers had limited control over their personal data being collected by private companies. The implications for positive social change may help consumers better understand the benefits and risks involving sharing personal information on the Internet. Company leaders may recognize concerns with respect to consumers’ ability to control their data and give them choices to manage their personal information.