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?