We hear so much these days about the internet and the collection of information to supply data to companies regarding our viewing and buying habits. At first glance this does seem to be an insidious invasion of our privacy. Frankly I found this to be as frustrating and irritating as anyone. However, a few weeks ago I heard a discussion on Public Radio regarding this very subject which made me stop and think; do we realize that we are essentially receiving at no monetary cost numerous internet services that we use nearly every day and take for granted ?
I personally utilize search engines such as Google several times a day. If not Google, I am using one of its cousins such as Yahoo. I maintain at least two separate, personal email accounts. I use Facebook as a method of keeping in touch with friends and family. LinkedIn is my best friend for maintaining professional relationships and for networking. And I wonder what I would do for video reference material and some entertainment should YouTube or related sites simply go away tomorrow. These are just a few examples of internet types of services many of us use heavily, yet have never paid for. We have become accustomed to those services being there each and every day, and to continue to use them “for free”.
I don’t know of many who could imagine having to pay for local and national broadcast television or AM/FM radio broadcasts we can access at any time of the day or night. Those broadcast venues were made available to the masses decades ago simply for the cost of buying the television or radio. The only caveat was putting up with the commercials that made it possible. Of course one recognizes YouTube, Facebook and other forms of social media are paid for in part from advertising. The other source of revenue is from the collection of certain data which in turn can be sold to companies hoping to sell something to us.
Knowing the mining and use of this data can be as frustrating and annoying as the never ending stream of commercials on television and radio. Yet on the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to start paying to utilize those social media venues I value and have become accustomed to utilizing for free. Remember that many decades ago people finally began to realize those commercials could be avoided by performing little errands around the house during those long commercial breaks. Or when we received unsolicited mail as a result of a company or agency providing my address as part of a paid mailing list, we learned we can simply place all that mail in a circular file. Coincidentally, just a having an unlisted land line number severely cuts down on the number of unwanted solicitations, one easy method to cut down on internet data collection is to make sure you continually delete your computer’s “cookie” files.
Many of us recognize this specific type of internet data mining is occurring and few if any like it. However I don’t see some sort of evil conspiracy behind it, nor put in in the same realm as internet “spying” performed by various government agencies across the globe. Most often then not it is simply one more method of companies figuring out how to make money, yet at the same time provide at no cost something we all take for granted.
Now if only someone could figure out a way for me to get free cable, internet access and phone service. (CMH)