Your privacy is the cost of free Internet Services.

Your privacy is the cost of free Internet Services.

Your privacy is the cost of free Internet Services.
We trade private information in exchange for free online services.

As we say in America “Nothing is Free.” It is so true!  Yet Internet users enjoy many free services for a variety of their day to day needs. And never wonder how these businesses make money. Services such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Twitter, CNN, YouTube etc are free to their users, and to say that their business is to simply show ads is naive!

The price of these free services is– our personal information. If privacy is traded for free services, then the question is how is my private information being utilized- and for what purposes? In this trade, who is getting the better end of the deal? Obviously not us!

Companies apply algorithms to track your online behaviors; articles you read, online searches, Facebook likes, Twitter feeds, your comments on Yahoo, your online shopping, etc. A failure in this algorithm means you are tracked incorrectly. If you are ever held in a court of law, all these footprints are admit-able as evidence. For you to prove them wrong on the grounds of incorrect data (for right or wrong reasons) is a tall order.  Recently a man was jailed for parole violation because of a Google+ invite that the man claims Google sent to his wife. Now an arrest record and jail record will appear on his background check.  We have the best legal system in the world, but justice is expensive in America.

Companies build intelligence around our internet behaviors to further refine their ad campaign, enabling them to market to individuals in a very specific manner. Wall Street Journal reports in an article titled “Selling You on Facebook” – “Many popular Facebook apps are obtaining sensitive information about users—and users’ friends—so don’t be surprised if details about your religious, political and even sexual preferences start popping up in unexpected places. “ In business school they teach a slogan “Half of the advertisement budget is wasted, the problem is I don’t know which half it is.” Online advertising solves this complex problem for businesses by intruding your privacy. Often users say, “I don’t mind seeing their ad because I see so many ads at various places that I don’t really care!”

Don’t compare online ads to any other ads. It is more complex than that.  Say for example you are considering divorce and exchanging email with your divorce attorney using your Gmail account. Gmail may render ads related to divorce attorneys and marriage counselors in your area. Imagine your spouse happens to walk behind you, and you have that ad on your screen- Yuck!!!. Google’s Ad sense tracks your internet behavior! Taking the divorce analogy further, say you visited a divorce attorney’s website, which is Google analytics enabled, and has paid for Google adwords service.  Since you visited this site, every time you traverse through the internet, all ad choice enabled sites will display this attorney’s site. These companies combined know more about your personal, private, and public life than you think they do . You will forget what you did online, but these sites never will. It is your permanent  footprint.

A Washington Post story revealed 11 pharmaceutical companies – including Pfizer Inc., SmithKline Beecham PLC, Glaxo Wellcome PLC – had formed an alliance and were tracking every click consumers made across their sites, and comparing notes. Consumers were never told! How would you feel if you were walking in a shopping mall and someone followed you around with a camera, noting every item you looked at?” Givens said, “I’m amazed that there’s this set of values out there in these companies that thinks it’s okay to capture data about one’s meanderings on the Web and attempt to make money off them without consent.” But then again nothing is free.

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