Yahoo! And Customer Privacy

12 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008 Last revised: 24 May 2019

See all articles by R. Edward Freeman

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Patricia H. Werhane

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This case explores the larger context of competition among internet companies for market share globally, especially in the emerging Chinese economy, as well as concerns about advancing the core values of the company including user privacy. Specifically, it concerns the decision facing Yahoo! when it is confronted with a request by the Chinese government to release the name of one of its users for alleged violations of Chinese law.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0300

Rev. May 21, 2019

Yahoo! and Customer Privacy

In the summer of 2004, the People's Republic of China asked Yahoo!'s Chinese subsidiary for the name and address associated with the username “houyan1989@yahoo.com.cn.” The government gave no explanation of why it needed this information or what it intended to do with it. Yahoo!'s privacy policy stated it would not divulge a customer's personal information unless officially requested via a court order or some other legal means; this was new and unexplored territory, however. US customers were highly sensitive about privacy issues, but China was a far different environment politically and culturally. There was the potential for a seemingly small issue to become a bigger problem. Given the lack of detail in the government's request, the immediate question appeared to be whether to ask for further information to evaluate against Yahoo!'s privacy policy, or to simply hand over the information as requested.

Yahoo!

One of the internet's earliest and biggest success stories, Yahoo! began in early 1994 as a side project for David Filo and Jerry Yang, two PhD students at Stanford. The internet was just beginning to explode with websites on a seemingly infinite number of topics, so Filo and Yang catalogued the sites they liked and made the list available on their own web page. Their well-organized directory was immensely popular, and in 1995, they incorporated their business as Yahoo!, took it public, and became multimillionaires.

. . .

Keywords: ethics, internet, China, user privacy, global market share, emerging economy, economies

Suggested Citation

Freeman, R. Edward and Wicks, Andrew and Werhane, Patricia H. and Mead, Jenny, Yahoo! And Customer Privacy. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0300. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1278383

R. Edward Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
804-924-0935 (Phone)
804-924-6378 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/freeman.htm

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/wicks.htm

Patricia H. Werhane

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4840 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/werhane.htm

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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