There’s an old snarky saying among privacy advocates: “If you aren’t paying for something, you are the product!” This updated version of “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” arose in the Internet age among the ever-growing list of free services and apps on the Internet funded by collecting and selling your data to advertisers. If large companies like Google and Facebook are any indication, a lot of money can be made with user data and the more data you collect, the more money you can make.
The more data = more money formula has meant that privacy on the Internet is hard to come by. There’s just too much money to be made and too little regulation and in some cases too little public will to prevent it. Many people justify the invasion of their privacy with the fact that they are at least getting something for free in return. Indeed many free phone apps or services that show ads to users also offer a paid version that removes ads (although that doesn’t necessarily mean the data collection stops).
You Are Always The Product
As bad as trading your privacy in exchange for an app or service might be, there’s at least some logic and precedent to it. Yet there’s a growing trend among businesses who have realized the gold mine of data they have from their paying customers . They see all the money they are leaving on the table and few so far have been able to resist the urge to copy the business model of Big Data companies. Now that everyone is data mining, we can shorten that snarky saying to just: “You are always the product.”
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