Why Services Are Free?

We share an exorbitant amount of information about ourselves online. Some of the information is published content in social media, where sometimes we understand the boundaries of who has access to it. Behind the scenes, we also share information about our behaviors, values and interests. What do we search on in Google? What links do we click on? All of this information is stored by the providers of the service (Google, Facebook, etc.) and many times can be linked directly to you (a reason why these companies want for you to stay logged in).

Monthly Expense Personal Website
Monthly Expense Personal Website

What I find interesting is that you are not really aware of what is happening behind the scenes. You might have heard about the use of cookies and how they are used to track your moves on the internet. You might know how to turn them off in your browser. However, from the perspective of a developer, the use of cookies is essential to the functionality of many websites – it allows the use of session variables – so it makes it a painstaking process to disable cookies. According to a Frontline broadcast United States of Secrets (05/20/2014), Google has a tracking cookie that most users get when they go online regardless if they are using a Google service; NSA piggybacked on the use of this cookie.

I experienced the effect of marketers viewing my digital tracks first-hand (like I am sure many of you have). For the past couple months, I have been looking for a television and bike in online stores. So I searched for them in Google and visited some of the sellers’ websites. Now, when I check my Hotmail email, I see ads for these products. I do not mind. From the marketer’s perspective, it was effective because I checked out the prices in the ad. The argument is both sides – the marketer and consumer – benefit from this personalized targeting.

According to a documentary Terms And Conditions May Apply, one such marketer Acxiom claims to have 1500 points of data (eye color, age, etc.) on the average American citizen.

Sharing ownership of content you publish is different. You should be careful when you upload a personal picture or video, because you never know where it could appear. I suggest reading the ‘privacy policy’ for all of the web services you become part of. In particular, pay attention to their rights to your content. For example, Facebook’s ‘terms of service’ makes it clear they have the right to use your intellectual property (IP) royalty free, worldwide, and in a sub-license.

It is understandable companies use these tactics when they offer free web services. If you think about how much time you spend using their services without directly paying for it, then you understand the value of their service. How many times do you search in Google a day without paying a cent? (I probably Google at least 10 times a day). Similarly Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn capture a lot of face time. So users are willing to give up some privacy to get something valuable for free.

Again, I am fine with these tactics; though perhaps, there should be more transparency with tracking and content ownership. I am just trying to make an argument for a paid service. I recently conducted a survey with Millennials, where I asked the sample ‘how much they would be willing to pay for a personal website service’. A large majority of them (65.14 percent) want to have it for free.

If I had a chance for a rebuttal, I would have told them why I think they should pay for it. If you have a personal website, I think you should have full ownership of the content and the provider should do what they can to protect your copyright privileges. In addition, there is no ‘mining’ of personal information to third-party marketers. This ownership of an identity is a key characteristic of an effective personal website.

1 thought on “Why Services Are Free?”

  1. Very interesting article.

    On 5/26/2014 10:18 AM, TheProfessionalWebsite – Personal Professional Website wrote: > WordPress.com > TheProfessionalWebsite posted: “We share an exorbitant amount > information about ourselves online. Some of the information is > published content in social media, where sometimes we understand the > boundaries of who has access to it. Behind the scenes, we also share > information about our be” >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s