If You’re Not Paying for It, You’re Not the Consumer. You’re the Product Being Sold
The internet continues to evolve and with it our privacy continues to be a matter of debate. It was once taken for granted by people who worked in advertising that a person’s privacy was paramount. Then some advertisers broke that trust and thereafter came the annoying phone calls during the dinner hour. In the last few years our private lives have been inundated with junk mail and our mailboxes real and virtual are filled to the tipping point with brand magazines and offers.
Google claims the changes make it easier for consumers to understand how it collects personal information, while allowing it to provide more helpful and compelling services.
But critics disagree. Most of America’s state attorney generals, along with a leading regulator in France, believe that Google is stepping too much on our right to privacy in its continuous mission to sell more advertising.
So what has changed? Well, Google is bringing together more than 60 privacy policies so it is able to gather all the data it has on each person, creating individual profiles to connect the dots from one service to another.
This means Google will track what you search for in its search engine facility and then use that intelligence to its advantage. It may suggest YouTube videos you might like or simply present you with advertisements it thinks are relevant to you. It’s obvious why Google is doing this. Advertising is its main source of income, boasting $38 billion every year. And it makes complete sense to offer advertisers ‘targeted ads’ to the right audience because in most cases Google only gets paid if someone ‘clicks’ on an ad link. Naturally, the more relevant and successful the advertising program, the more money Google will make.
But I bet you’re thinking… wait just a second! How do I prevent Google from using my personal data? At the moment, you can’t. Not if you’re a registered user of its products such as Gmail, Google+ and YouTube. But there are some steps you can take to minimize the data collected.
Firstly, you’ve got to make sure you’re not logged into one of Google’s services when you’re using its search engine… or even watching YouTube videos. You also get the option to delete your historic search activity – just manage your account and privacy settings.
Although we can all find ways to protect ourselves, the only real way to avoid Google tracking us is to stop using their services altogether. After all, the services are free so surely we should understand they come at a price?
Which leads me onto my final point – in this digital age we have sacrificed our privacy in order to access all manner of free stuff on the web. It’s a movement that most of us have come to accept. Or have we?
I’ll borrow a quote I read on MetaFilter recently: ‘If you’re not paying for it; you are the product’. I’m not sure how many people are fully aware of this sentiment yet or whether they even care. But the next time you’re browsing the web or enjoying a video on YouTube, remember that Google is watching your every move; because that’s the price you pay.