Nowadays, social media plays an indispensable role in most individuals’ lives. Despite the benefits these online platforms have brought to us, let me reveal some of the truth of these so-called “free” websites in my video below.
In today’s digital world, the Internet plays a crucial role in most people’s lives. Clay Shirky said that the Internet imposes no barriers to entry, no economies of scale, no limits on supply. According to her, the Internet seems to be beneficial and beneficial only. Social media is becoming tremendously prevalent on the Internet. These platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube, together they form a distributed network – a network where every individual user has equal control over the platform and can freely distribute content online. We do everything here on a daily basis, especially the millennials: We connect with friends, talk about things on Facebook, we search for information on Google, and all of it’s freely accessible. But have you ever wondered: How do these websites make money?
Let me tell you, these free services come at a cost. We pay for them with our very privacy and identity. When you use Facebook, they access all of your online behavior, the pages you like, the photos you upload, the people you interact with, even the words in your private chat with friends. They know your habits, your interests, they know about you even more than your closest friends. Then they take that information, analyze it and create a detailed profile of who you are and send that information to advertisers.
That’s not hypothetical, this actually happened to me frequently. A few days ago I was chatting with my friend on Facebook Messenger and we were talking about “Adidas NMD shoes” and not long afterward, my news feed was filled with ads about NMD shoes, even exactly the color of shoes we were mentioning before. I’m sure most of you here have encountered the same situation like me at least once. Just back up a second and think about all the “coincidence” that you thought you got lucky to find exactly the right ad about the product you were interested in.
This has got to be one of the most invasive advertising systems ever invented. Facebook can actually determine who’s the most vulnerable to an ad campaign and then bombard them with full of ads until they buy even more.
Now you would say: “Then I would just delete my Facebook account”. Sure you can get away from Facebook but good luck escaping the biggest searching tool in the world: Google.
Google doesn’t just track you when you search. In fact, they also track you on over 10 million websites in the world. Everytime you write a Gmail, watch Youtube videos or use Google map, Google collects data about you. Teodor Mitew stated: “If I offer to manage email for you for free, in return for reading it all, I don’t compromise only your privacy but also that of everyone corresponding with you”.
According to Ethan Zuckerman, the director of MIT Center for Civic Media, “the fact that the sites are free is the problem. When the web was created, we the users decided we would rather have free stuff than pay money for the services we use. As a result, these websites have had to sell ads to earn profit”. They target ads to us based on our preferences in our behavior online and that means we’re under constant surveillance in exchange for these services that we get for free.
But do they only show us ads? We actually don’t know the full capability of Facebook and Google and what else they do to our information. All we know is that they are collecting our data on an unprecedented scale and making billions off of it. And that’s their real business model. They’re monetizing us.
When we use these sites, we’re not the customer, we are the product.
Tell me, do you still want to use free websites now?
If you want to know more about the terrifying cost of “free” websites, check out ‘Adam ruins Everything’ from CollegeHumour. See you then!
CollegeHumor 2016, The Terrifying Cost of “Free” Websites, 7 December, viewed 1 September 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pFX2P7JLwA>.
Mitew, T 2017, ‘The Feudalisation of the Internet’, Prezi slides, 21 July, Wollongong University, viewed 1 September 2017, <https://prezi.com/qopqxh6ktl1j/the-feudalisation-of-the-internet/>.