Were you expecting a free lunch?

My immediate thought about online privacy is that it comes down to expectations. Do you have different expectations if you pay for something compared to getting something for free? If you are getting a free service do you really expect to have privacy? Economics has been driving the development of the internet. Firms will want something in return for their free services. I believe firms will try to convince us, trick us, act unethical (or even worse) whenever they believe they can make money off of people’s information. Are the laws in place to protect us? More importantly will these laws be enforced? I think we need to teach students that until there are better laws and enforcement in place, they need to be more careful on who they give their information to and how much information they should give. Particularly when it comes from somebody offering a free lunch. Here’s a recent article discussing better regulations and the implementation of a do not track feature.


6 thoughts on “Were you expecting a free lunch?

  1. I can’t remember where I originally heard it, but I once read “If you’re not paying, then YOU are the product.” Information and habits are big business for sure. If it’s such big business, do you think we should be concerned about paid services also harvesting this information and making money off of us twice?

    • Hi Clint,

      Yes I think we should be concerned. We all want our information protected and I think our expectation rises when we are paying for it. I know mine does and I want to be clearly informed if this is not the case. Firms are finding some innovative revenue models for harvesting and selling our information. Along with better enforcement through governments, consumers are also being vigilant by exposing these organizations that may be misusing our information for other profitable purposes. I think it will get better as things evolve but it will always be a game of catch up.

  2. Jack,
    I think you’re right in that we need to TEACH our students how to be tech-savvy individuals. As adults, we know not to give out personal information over the internet; however, our young, impressionable students may not. And why should they, especially if they haven’t been ‘burned’ or taught how to be a digital citizen? I just saw Kim Cofino’s tweet about the digital citizenship plan for her middle school teachers. I firmly believe that we need to arm our students for battle as they enter the digital war field.

  3. Thanks Emily, that is sound advice and it’s nice to hear teachers like Kim are introducing this in middle school. I know my high school students are also quite interested in this topic and I look forward to having some discussions with them in the coming weeks.

  4. Jack you bring up a great point. Why should we expect that free sites would not take advantage of us? What is in it for them? Clint, I wonder the same thing. How secure are sites we pay for? Where can I find out more information about the true security of sites? Surely there is a site with a rating scale assessing online privacy.

  5. On this topic, I have sometimes wondered at the possibility of creating a new meme for online businesses: paying the users to be on the site. Now hear me out. If I had a Facebook like website, and paid the users $25/year to be members, and if I marketed it correctly, I could soon have millions of customers. Of course I’d be say $50 million in the hole. Ok, but that’s not a problem, even if I’m not generating revenue, because I’m generating users. And as you can see, Instagram, which has about 40 million users, just got bought at a cool $1 billion. And if you include the revenue you could generate from advertising or from selling user usage information, you could still be way, way ahead. I don’t know if this idea has been tried, but it seems like it could work.

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