Introduction: Marketing Information Systems

Welcome to the first blog post for our information systems module! It’s not only the first blog but a predecessor and introduction to a more in-depth quest to research the topic of marketing information systems. Yes I am a blog virgin who doesn’t even read blogs but I hope to keep you engaged as I delve into the very interesting subject that is information systems.

I should probably kick off the blog post series by introducing my teammates who will be maintaining this blog post with me. My name is Michael Leahy and I am currently a third year Engineering with Management (EwM) student in Trinity College Dublin….my teammates Conor, Ruth, Nollaig and Sarah will embark into the various topics surrounding marketing information systems. What does this entail? I’m still trying to figure that out….that was my lame attempt at a “joke” in the hopes to keep this blog entertaining for all you dorks…. We are going to be investigating why information systems are being used, how they are being used and some issues that we as individuals are exposed to by living in a world where information is gathered, stored and utilised by big corporations in a marketing system.

As engineering with management students we take a diverse spectrum of modules in the hopes to hone in on both our technical and management aspects of engineering. The themes covered are Engineering Fundamentals, Business and Management, Design and Manufacturing Engineering. Cool, that’s all great and all but the question I keep getting asked is what the frick do engineers do?….Engineers are problem solvers and also great people to party with. Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. They are fundamentally the bridge between scientific discoveries and commercial applications …. commercial applications such as management information systems you ask? Hell yeah!

The lecturers in our college really try to keep us engaged and interested in engineering and management so credit has to be given to them as they adapt to moving all module content online through live lectures and tutorials…..our information systems module has done this pretty effectively and the general consensus through our group is that this is defiantly one of our favourite modules thus far in college. With this module I feel like I am really deepening my knowledge not only for my degree but by gaining information about the world that we are all apart of…. it doesn’t feel like a chore to study but more of an interesting topic to read up on.

The objective of this module is to introduce us to information systems in business and examine how management information systems and decision support systems can support improved organisational performance for businesses. We also cover information control and security surrounding these systems and the ethical uses of IT in collecting and storing our data… this can occur while shopping online, watching YouTube videos or by simply checking the weather on your phone.

In 2020, the amount of people who own a phone is around 4.8 billion and out of this number 3.5 billion of them are smartphones. This means that over 60% of the world’s population own some sort of mobile device, with the majority of them having the ability to connect to the internet [1]. By owning a device that can connect to the internet you are exposing yourself as a surveillance risk as location tracking is being implemented by major tech companies such as google.

Information systems are using this location tracking which would be beneficial to business owners and companies who want to know what shops I frequent and what my shopping habits are like in relation to these stores. This ranges from how how long I spend in various shops to what section of the stores I spend the most time in. This information would be valuable to businesses who would begin to build up a profile on me as a consumer and try to sell me their services or products…..this is fundamentally an information system as its core.

“An information system (IS) can be defined technically as a set of interrelated components that collect, process, store, and distribute information to support decision making and control in an organization.” [2] Via your smartphone your location is being collected, this is then processed, stored and distributed to aid decision marking in companies…. Sound very similar to the definition of an information system? That’s because it is duh.

This location tracking can and has also been used by used by law enforcement to prosecute individuals by placing them at the scene of the crime. A court case involving the murder of a woman in Ireland used certain phone call metadata as a form of evidence in a trial. The use of this data was disputed rigorously by the defence as there were issues that the data obtained didn’t comply with EU law based on data retention. A man by the name of Graham Dwyer was convicted on the 27 March 2015 of this crime using this data nonetheless and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ok this is just one case but this type of information collecting and utilization can be seen across the world, in china the government are using surveillance to place individuals at protests, who will then be prosecuted…. Scary stuff right? Yes and no. There are things you as an individual can do to limit the data collected and stored on you by these big companies. For as long as I can remember I have blindly been accepting cookies as I browse through the web and as a result massive amounts of stored cookies are accumulating on my phone and laptop. Cookies are pieces of data that are stored as text files inside the web browser you use. They provide websites the ability to accumulate information which allows them to record and track each individual user and session. For example when I visit a website for the first time a cookie is set. This cookie could keep track of my activity on that website and when I revisit the website, the cookie is sent back to the server showing them my previous activity. This activity could be information on if I logged in or not and with what pages I visited and interacted with. Cookies can also store information such as credit card information, items added to a shopping basket for an online store along with login details to an account.

This enhances web browsing experiences by enabling auto logins to accounts and keeping track of the website preferences a user has set but it also puts you in the firing line for data collection and retention. Information collected and stored on you via these means is being sold to companies who will then be able to put forward targeted ads, which we all know too well about… more on this later. Can I stop companies collecting data on me ? The answer is a fat yes! There are laws and rights you have as an individual which should be looked into by everyone in my opinion.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was put in place on 25th May 2018, this system is implemented all throughout the European Union. It is extremely important to understand what rights the GDPR gives us and what control we have on the personal data that is collected on us.

As an individual in Ireland we have the right, under Article 15 of the GDPR, to access all personal data which is being used by controllers along with any other related information. The GDPR doesn’t outline any particular means to request access to the data in question, but requesting personal data can be achieved in writing or verbally.

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) is liable for making sure that the right for data privacy is met under the GDPR. As an individual you also have the ability to put forward a right to be forgotten request to any company storing information on you. The company must respond to this request within a reasonable space of time and delete/remove all information gathered on you.

So whats coming next in this series of blogs… well there is a lot more interesting information to come as we take a deeper look into marketing information systems.

Peace and Love.

References:

[1] Turner, Ash, et al. “How Many People Have Smartphones Worldwide (April 2021).” BankMyCell, 1 Apr. 2021, www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world.

[2] 1. Laudon, K.C. and Laudon, J. P. (2014) Management Information Systems, thirteenth edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

A series of blogs to delve into the topic of marketing information systems.

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