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Ethics of Using Mash Ups and Third Parties on your Web Site

By Deadly Ernest ·
Hi Everyone,

In a couple of other recent threads I've become involved in some heated, and lengthy, discussions on the use of material from off your server in the operation of your web site. Things like Mash Ups and calling data from third parties to display on your site, through to using third parties to gather information for you on your web site, and having third parties doing things for you on your web site.

I've always said I don't mind things happening where I get a chance to make an informed decision, so telling me you're about to use a third party and letting me choose to do so or not is never a problem. The issue comes in where you have it all happen in the background so I don't get a chance to make the decision. If you have the information about the third party displayed and a link to go there, then I can choose to go there and use them as a second party, or choose not to go there.

I thought I'd ask for some discussion on if people think it's ethical to use third parties WITHOUT letting the user know a third party is being involved before you involve them. This is NOT about using third parties or which ones to use, but about the concealment of the involvement without giving the user choice of involvement.


I'll start with a couple of comments about my feelings and why.

I'm against it as you take away my right to choose, you CAN also hide where I'm being shifted to. Also, if something goes wrong due to a problem with the third party, you're not likely to take responsibility for it and provide me with compensation to fix it; despite having involved someone without my permission.

That's the ethical aspects for me, but there's also a security aspect.

One thing some distributors of malware do is to set up a 'come on page' to get you to look at it. Such pages used to have the Trojan hidden on it, now they tend to have a concealed link to another page that has the Trojan hidden on it and it gets loaded in the background via this third party. Another thing the bad guys do is hack a web site and add a concealed link to their page with the Trojan code. This is the reason why many security advisers tell you to set your browser to 'not allow' third party cookies.

What's your take on the ethical side of this activity?

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