It became the foundation for an entirely new business model: the collection of personal data.
NO FREE LUNCHES
To find an example of this business model, you only have to look as far as the world’s most popular free-to-use social networking site, Facebook. What is it exactly that makes the company so valuable?
The answer: it’s you.
There is a plethora of free services on the web, each offering their own unique way to connect with others around the globe. Whether it’s revenue from targeted advertising or trading with third-parties, companies profit from the data its users provide. Across the world, the personal lives of people willing to share them, sit on a server inside a data centre somewhere. High-level encryption keeps it safe. Secure. But as the old saying goes, if you’re not paying for the service then you are not the customer; you’re the product.
It raises the question, how ‘free’ are these free-to-use sites. What are we actually signing away when we sign up? When was the last time any of us actually read the terms and conditions?
Three months? Five years? Never?
Nobody has time to read through a circa 20,000-word document of capitalised text each time a company updates its policy. Signing a mortgage agreement requires less paperwork, it begs a profound and somewhat troubling question:
What if privacy policies were not so much about protecting privacy at all, but instead relinquishing it?