Just because something can be done, should we do it?

“Science can tell us how to do something, but it cannot tell us whether we should do it. To explore that question, we must step outside the narrow range of science’s purely technical questions, and look at the full human context and consequences of what we are doing.”

“The Scientist and the Poet,” by Paul A. Cantor in New Atlantis

AnalyticsSo what does this have to do with the price of tea in China or with anything in the retail business world? Simply everything. Today we have the ability to track people moving from Palestine to Israel with satellites from space. I assure you we can also track the movement and click of every person who stops by on your website.  We can see where they went, how long they stayed, where they paused, how deeply they moved into the content, when they exited. We can test one layout over another to see which one provides the best ROI. The list could go on.

Here is the point: Do you believe you have the right to collect data on your website visitors and then contact this person without their permission? In my business right now I’m coming up against web design and media companies that are telling retailers and vendors that this is a good idea. I think NOT.

Bryan and Jeff Eisenberg have been writing and teaching about these ethical issues for several years. In their 10/8/2009 not-to-miss-links they provide insightful information about the importance of data above the fold, and how to better use Google Analytics, and wonderful history of social media. There is little doubt that technology today can do lots of things to drive your business, but the changing formula doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions.

In the ancient writings of the Old Testament we can find the direction for making decisions today. A great King around two-thousand years ago said; “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from evil.” I think he was talking about the ideas of transparency, honesty, morality, and truthfulness for all times not just during his time on earth.

It might also be true that we live in an age when adding faith and philosophy makes the formula even more flammable in the minds of many.

What do you think?