Ethics in online marketing : a case-based analysis of ethical issues in internet marketing
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- Master Thesis 
The Internet has in the last 10-15 years become one of the most important channels of communication for a large proportion of the people on earth. It has provided unprecedented reach and the amount of information found on the Internet surpasses that of any other medium we have seen to date. The Internet has two main features that separate it from other types of media; Interactivity and Individualization. This has made it immensely popular because there is the possibility of two way dialog in real time as well as the ability to individualize many features of the Internet. The 2 I’s1 of the Internet has especially been important in shaping the online commerce scene and something that has led to a skyrocketing in online purchases in the last ten years. It is safe to say that the Internet has become one of the most important venues for online commerce and is sure to increase in importance in the future. This leads me to what this paper is trying to get a better understanding of namely the difficulties that come with the almost uncontrollable growth of this new medium. The focus of this paper is on ethical issues in online marketing. With the growth of online commerce comes a natural increase in outlets for marketing. This has resulted in an asymmetry between those who try to take advantage of the Internet at all cost and those who try to establish legislature to protect the receivers of information online. Ethical standards transcend legal ones and the creation of a new medium such as the Internet should not suddenly turn an ethical person un-ethical, but I believe there to be a lot more grey areas concerning the Internet than there are in more established media. This grey-area implication also relates to online marketing because this is un-chartered territory in many cases. Many companies have tried to combat this with a set of code-of-conduct parameters, but these are also often interpreted on a case-by-case basis and one argument might outweigh another and still turn out to provide a negative result. The purpose of this paper is two-fold; First it aims to give an understanding of some of the issues that causes debate when it comes to ethics in online marketing as well as give a description of some of the more technical aspects of online marketing that have been debated as being un-ethical. Second, I will try to answer the question of whether companies that use 1 Mohammed et al. Internet Marketing: Building advantage in a networked economy 6 the Internet are better served following a code-of-conduct approach as far as ethical online behavior is concerned or if they should instill a less rigid virtue approach to online marketing.