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With the advent of the information age and the endless advancement of informational technology, it has become easier and almost mandatory for people to give out their personal details, such as names, personal identification numbers, credit card numbers, and their registration numbers, among many other details to companies and organizations that they intend to associate with in one way or the other.
However, there are challenges to this growing phenomenon. Incidences of cyber crimes are also on the increase, where personal information obtained from people is being used by criminals to either fleece them or steal from other people as a disguise of the criminal’s identity.
Organizations are, therefore, using their public policy statements to reassure their clientele that private information obtained from them will be kept secretly and only used in a legal way that is acceptable to both the client and the organization.
Additionally, the paper will give recommendations on how each of the three companies can revise their policies to protect their customers’ privacy and have an appropriate flexibility to use the same without contravening the privacy.
Organizations and their Missions
Netflix, Inc. is a pioneer company in digital distribution services that serves its customers on subscription basis. The company was established in 1997 and is based in the United States of America, with its headquarters in California.
Netflix’s main business mission involves providing internet streaming media to different international markets, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, as well as the North and South America.
Within the USA, Netflix provides flat rate ‘DVD-by-mail services’ to its customers, with the company relying on Permit Reply Mail to mail the DVDs (Netflix, 2012).
Blockbuster LLC is a home entertainment company that was founded in 1985 in Englewood, Colorado, in the United States of America. The company is currently wholly owned by Dish Network and has its main market including the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Brazil, and Mexico.
The company’s main mission is to provide home movies, as well as video games on rental terms. Additionally, Blockbuster also offers DVD-by-Mail services, video on demand, streaming, and cinema theater services.
The Xbox is a Microsoft manufactured video game computer, otherwise referred to as video game console, that was first introduced into the market in 2001. The Xbox Live allows users to play video games online from any location worldwide and download content to their systems. The company’s mission is to become the world’s leading video game console in terms of subscriber base and content.
The companies require their customers to provide them with their personal information to be used mainly for communication purposes and for processing business requests, such as home delivery of products. This information is disclosed to other companies that are affiliates of the three or business partners.
Thus, disclosure of customer information is done to agent or contractor companies that associate directly with Netflix, Blockbuster, and Xbox’s Microsoft companies. Personal information from children is not collected by the companies. However, the companies can knowingly collect information from children if the children are supervised by an adult.
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Disclosure of personal information from customers can be done by the companies without seeking the customer’s consent. This is done in particular cases where the companies might be required by law to disclose such information by a law agency.
In addition to this, all the three companies add the rider that they preserve the right to transfer personal information particularly in instances when the companies undergo restructuring, reorganization, or a merger. Such an action by the companies will be undertaken without the client’s consent and is done to improve the services offered to the customers.
Users have direct access to their personal information that they provide to the companies. This is allowed for purposes of enabling subscribers to update any such information, alter it, or even delete their accounts.
Protection of personal information collected by the companies has been assured. All the companies employ technological, physical, as well as organizational procedures, such as using Secure Sockets Layering, to protect customer information from being accessed by unauthorized people.
The websites of these companies contain links to other third party websites which may allow users to log on to such websites.
However, any personal information requested by these third party websites may be used differently from the way Netflix, Blockbuster, or Xbox uses the same information. In other words, these three companies do not control how other websites with direct links to their official sites use information collected online.
The companies use their websites to either send their advertisement messages or allow their business partners to advertise directly through their websites. The companies hold the discretion to send such advertisement messages to their clients. Customers, nevertheless, can deactivate such services in order to block them from receiving such advertisements.
Differences among the Organization’s Privacy Policies
While Netflix assures the consumers of the security measures it has employed to protect their personal information from being accessed by unauthorized people, the company puts a disclaimer that it may not fully guarantee the security of such information. Netflix notes that it will not assume responsibility for any improper access to personal information at its disposal.
This policy differs with those employed by Blockbuster and Xbox. While they also assure customers of the security of their personal information, Blockbuster and Xbox do not provide a disclaimer to warn customers of the fact that such information is not 100% guaranteed as safe.
Netflix’s policy on children has identified 18 years of age as the minimum age for customers to be allowed to subscribe for their services. Further, the company notes that where the age of majority as is legally determined by a jurisdiction is above 18 years, users will be expected to fulfill such age before they can subscribe to the company’s services.
However, this is not the case for Blockbuster and Netflix. Both companies identify the age of 13 years to be the minimum before which a customer will not be allowed to subscribe to their services. In addition, Blockbuster LLC identifies the fact that it fully complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, abbreviated as COPPA. Both Netflix and Xbox do not specify such commitment.
While all the companies indicate that they will disclose customer’s personal information without the knowledge of the customer in instances where they are legally required to do so for security reasons, Netflix and Xbox additionally indicate that disclosure may be done to protect the companies against harm.
Blockbuster’s policy does not involve disclosing customers’ personal information for purposes of protecting the company’s property or assets from harm.
Closely related to this, both Netflix and Xbox add the rider that they preserve the right to transfer personal information particularly in instances when the companies undergo restructuring, reorganization, or a merger. In contrast, however, Blockbuster does not indicate such a rider.
Netflix allows its subscribers to share information concerning their general experience in as far as their use of the company’s services is concerned. This can be done within Netflix itself or other social networks.
However, customers’ use of Netflix social features must meet the Social Terms set by the company. This differs with the other two companies, Xbox and Blockbuster, because they do not have a policy on social sharing of information by their customers concerning the companies.
Xbox has a policy on unsolicited E-mail, which are also known as ‘spam.’ It prohibits the sending of spam using any Microsoft-provided e-mail account, such as Windows Live Hotmail. Such policies, however, do not exist in the case of Blockbuster and Netflix.
Recommendations on Improving the Privacy Policies
Netflix needs to address the indiscernible nature of data brokers who consumers lack control over, and who use consumer information collected by Netflix. Most customers prefer such information to only be accessible with the company that they have direct subscription with (FTC, 2012).
While it is also important that Netflix maintains close relations with such third party companies for purposes of improving on quality, the numbers can be reduced so that such personal information held by Netflix can only be shared amongst few third party companies.
The minimum age for allowing customers to subscribe to Netflix services should be reduced from 18 to 13 years. This would help parents to have confidence that the content supplied by the company is safe for viewership of their children.
Blockbuster should consider adding a disclaimer about the security on personal information collected from customers. This is because information collected through online means cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe. By including such a disclaimer, Blockbuster will absolve itself from any claims of irresponsibility in case such information is accessed by other unauthorized people.
It is important for Xbox to include a disclaimer on the security of private information it obtains from its customers. Online communication is not 100% secure and, therefore, the company should include such a rider to absolve itself from any liability that may arise from unauthorized persons getting access to such information.
Netflix, Blockbuster, and Xbox, have all established their privacy policies, which customers should consent to before signing up for the services offered by these companies. All the companies reserve the right to disclose such information collected from their clientele base to government agencies, especially where they are required to do so for legal reasons.
Information from children willing to subscribe for services in any of these companies is not collected. However, the companies can only do in instances where they are permitted by parents to collect information.
The companies also allow their customers to get access into their personal information that they submitted and change details to reflect any new developments. Customers are also allowed to delete their profile accounts if they wish to do so.
However, there are several differences in the policies of all the three companies. Netflix provides a disclaimer indicating that it may not fully guarantee the security of the personal information it collects from customers. Blockbuster and Xbox do not provide such disclaimers. Netflix has also fixed its minimum age for subscription at 18 years, which contrasts with the 13 years that both Xbox and Blockbuster have set for children.
FTC (2012). Protecting consumer privacy in an era of rapid change: Recommendations for business and policymakers. Federal Trade Commission Report. Web.
Netflix. (2012, Feb 10). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Web.
Upadhyaya, P. (2013). FTC outlines recommendations to improve mobile privacy. Silicon Valley Business Journal. Web.