There are no free lunches (Facebook edition)

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How much would you be willing pay Facebook or Google to use their Internet platforms without being subjected to ads? (Hint: “$0” and “they should pay me” are the wrong answers.) Geoffrey A. Fowler poses this thought-provoking question in this excellent essay (via The Washington Post). Here is an excerpt from his essay (with editorial comments by us in brackets):

Today, Zuckerman calls advertising “the Internet’s original sin.” Facebook doesn’t sell our data, but it uses it to sell marketers highly targeted access to us. These ads pay for billions of people to get information and have a voice online. But they also create an online world where surveillance is the norm and we’re not fully in control of data about us. And to compete [with whom, though?] Facebook has [has?] to keep collecting data like a hungry, hungry hippo. It started with what we post on Facebook, but grew to include what you do when you surf the Web and use other apps. It even lets marketers marry their own data with what Facebook has in its dossier. When I recently downloaded all my Facebook data (which anyone can do here), it included a frightening list of “Advertisers with your contact info.” Mine had a lot of giant corporations and … and Britney Spears.

In other words, people: there are no free lunches! If we want privacy, how much is it going cost us?

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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6 Responses to There are no free lunches (Facebook edition)

  1. Luanne says:

    Google reads my private emails and targets ads accordingly. I think that is an invasion of privacy. Any reasonably intelligent person should have realized Facebook isn’t around for our pleasure for free.

  2. Kathy H says:

    When I tried to login to my Yahoo e-mail account today, I had to agree to a new terms of use policy. Part of that new policy is allowing them to use my data including giving my data to Verizon. I also had to agree to let Verizon use my data according to Verizon’s data use policy. In case of a disagreement I had to agree to arbitration and had to agree to waive any class action law suits. I felt I was being held hostage. If I don’t agree, there goes my e-mail!!!! This is really terrible. NOTHING IS PRIVATE ON THE INTERNET.

  3. Craig says:

    I share very little on FB. I don’t see it as an ad-exposure vs info-sharing trade. I share only the info I am comfortable with making public. I routinely review my “presence” on the site and delete old items. My biggest concern is delivering a big instant historical correlated view of me to a data-miner. The ads are irrelevant to me. If FB pushes more ads on me, I will just use the service less, not necesssarily change the scope of what I share.

    • Good points. I tend to ignore the ads on Facebook too, but I might be willing to pay for an ad-free Facebook experience (or better yet, for the old, simpler Facebook platform experience).

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