For the larger paper that I will write, I chose Essay Prompt #1, concerning online companies, their collection of personal information, and the huge potential for the abuse of such information. I chose this topic because it is directly related to a research topic I am interested in pursuing for the larger paper, and that is the online learning company, Intellipath. With all online companies that engage in the collection of sensitive personal information, and most alarmingly so with Intellipath, as shall be discussed, the potential for the sharing of information between private companies regarding the personal data of mutual customers (or potential customers) raises a great number of concerns regarding privacy rights, the huge potential for customer manipulation in the guise of “marketing,” and the possibility that a customer’s information, given in good faith, could possibly be turned against them. For instance, if I make a number of purchases of unhealthy foods using my Capital One credit card, could that information be shared with health insurance providers without my knowledge, thus making me ineligible for health coverage or forced to pay higher premiums, because an agent at the insurance company worries that my excessive purchases of ice cream will give me diabetes or high cholesterol in the future? The potential for abuse of information among online companies is huge, and this presents a compelling social justice concern, and so I think it is a topic worthy of future research and writing.
Intellipath is a relatively new online educational tool that is now being used by only a handful of universities, but the company appears to be engaging in an aggressive marketing campaign at the moment, so it is very possible its use may become more widespread in the next few years. Intellipath markets itself as an interactive learning platform, intended primarily for use with the ever-popular online college classes, and claims that it does several things in lieu of a live professor, who requires a salary and benefits. Intellipath asks a student a series of questions, creates a customized learning map, and then only presents the course content that the student actually needs to learn. Not only will this technology, if it is successful, potentially put a lot of university professors out of work, but its claimed ability to measure a student’s cognitive abilities, knowledge base, and potentially measure innate intelligence raises a lot of red flags. Admittedly, some of these claims my be exaggerated in the name of marketing, but will information gathered about individual students’ intellectual capacities be eventually shared with future employers, insurance companies, and potential lenders? Intellipath has the potential to do a lot of damage to people’s lives before they even have a chance to begin.
As far as research for this topic, I will need to find commentary other than that presented directly by the Intellipath company regarding its true capabilities as an “adaptive learning tool,” as well as any privacy laws which may apply to the services they claim to provide. I will additionally need to do research on past instances of information sharing abuse by online companies, and investigate what, if any, consequences they faced as a result of their rogue behavior. When writing an argumentative essay such as the one for the larger project I will eventually be doing, it is of utmost importance to use outside sources to support my argument. Without the use of outside resources to support my claims, I would basically just be writing pure unsubstantiated narrative. However, if I provide outside sources, especially peer-reviewed sources, readers will take my claims and argument seriously, and will want to know more about this very important topic.