When the Online Service is Free, YOU are the Product

You’ve probably seen many news stories about Facebook and how it handles your personal data. Many of us rely on the online service to keep in touch with family, plan a vacation, chat daily with friends. We rarely think about the digital footprints we leave, or who would ever want to follow our tracks.

Sure, we knew that being fed advertising was part of the deal to use the platform for free. But how many of us actually read the privacy statement when we started using the service? And how many of us noticed the changes they’ve made over time?

You see, Facebook doesn’t just make money when they serve up advertisements to targeted users. They also make money – a lot of it – by selling the data generated while you use their platform. Until now, most people didn’t see that as much of a problem.

With recent revelations about how Facebook sells your data to political operatives, it should be clear by now using their “free” online platform isn’t truly free. The reality is that, by using Facebook and other social media, we authorize them to track our discussions, our likes, our posts, and all our activity and then sell that data. If an online service is free, and they aren’t selling a product, YOU are the product – your data, likes, dislikes and interests provide a goldmine of data to be harvested by who want insights into how to “speak your language” so they can ultimately influence you to act in a particular way.

So the next time you decide to get into a flame contest over a culture war issue, think about who might find that conversation valuable. They aren’t just trying to sell products any longer. They are selling you.