February 1, 2021•411 words
When everyone thinks of surveillance capitalism they think of the free model. A service like facebook provides you something for free and captures every bit of data it can. While this is definitely a large part of it, it isn't the end of the story, it is only the beginning. The truth of the matter is everyone is gathering data about you It doesn't matter whether it is a free service or not. Some are more aggressive than others but almost every company does it.
For example, I pay for a subscriptions to a number of news sites. When I fire up my browser and look at the number of trackers loaded by the their main pages, here is what I see:
- Washington Post - 20 trackers
- NY Times - 12 trackers
- LA Times - 11 trackers
- National Review - 16 trackers
These trackers are applied to me even though I am a paid subscriber and already logged into each site with my account. The product isn't free but I am still the product.
Another example is internet service providers. We pay them (sometimes through the nose) to provide us with internet service. What many people don't know is that many are monetizing people's browsing activity. In many cases this is done via their "custom" service specific DNS services that capture every site you go to. For the tech savvy, there are many ways around this tracking. However, the majority of the world is not tech savvy and is blissfully unaware. This article in Fast Company (39 trackers) gives a decent outline of the issue. Again, our internet is not free and we are still the product.
I could go on and on listing examples. The key point here is the situation is much more nuanced and complex than just free is bad and paid is good. EVERYONE wants our data. The question is, how do we event start protecting it? More on that next time...