NOTHING Is Free Online - The Invaluable Price We Pay
How many free services do you use online? Your social media? App games on your phone? Free web browsers? Free search engines on those web browsers?
In actuality, nothing is free online.
We all pay a price for “free” online services.
The problem is, many of us are unaware of the price we pay.
That price is invaluable… it’s our digital identities.
You Are A Free Digital Laborer For Google And Facebook
“You have multiple jobs, whether you know it or not. Most begin first thing in the morning, when you pick up your phone and begin generating the data that make up Silicon Valley’s most important resource. That, at least, is how we ought to think about the role of data-creation in the economy...We are all digital labourers, helping make possible the fortunes generated by firms like Google and Facebook.”
Little do people know how valuable their data is actually worth. On our end it may seem like all we are doing is making a call, looking up the weather for the day, and playing some games.
In the eyes of internet firms, you are generating invaluable personal information like your interests, where you live and work, and who you contact.
The artificial intelligence these companies run on get better all the time. Appropriate to its name, AI learns. And it learns by being trained from massive amounts of human-generated data.
We are all digital laborers and our job is to feed artificial intelligence for free.
The fortunes of online behemoths like Google and Facebook are built on the backs of the digital labor of the people.
Online, “Free” translates to “In exchange for.”
Your Online Privacy Is Violated By Default
How did this happen? Silently and behind the scenes without much fuss.
The digital economy is a never-before-seen milestone of human civilization. Naturally, majority of people are unaware of the value of their data, how their data is used, and that online corporations routinely exploit their data.
Facebook, the most popular social media site, operates in an identical fashion. And we’ve already seen what happened with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and events such as the 50 million user hack and reality of we all work for Facebook.
The name of the game is to harvest your data, unless you say otherwise. And until the implementation of GDPR, an opt-out was not possible or extremely difficult to find. Combine that with the general public unawareness of datamining, and you can see how the playing field is rigged against everyday people.
You Can Take My Identity, But Don’t Take My Money
The state of the digital economy today is unethical. Some suggest internet firms compensate internet users for the digital information they consistently supply.
People provide so much online information that it creates a whole profile of yourself in a digital form, your digital identity. And our lives are so intertwined with the digital that we live digital lifestyles. The line between offline/ online barely exists and blurs more everyday.
Somehow, people feel it is okay to post personal information on Facebook. But take that same information and post it on a bulletin board or on a work of art, and suddenly people become upset.
Why does the general public feel complacent when online corporations exploit their personal information?
Mostly because people are deeply unaware of the invaluable monetary and social value of their content. And if they do know it, they are no systems in place to help them easily benefit from their content.
Fortunately, enough people have taken notice. Government institutions are now passing laws (GDPR, California Data Protection) in favor of online privacy, ethical data usage, and user-data protection. The General Data Protection Regulation can be understood in six of its main principles:
Personal data should be:
- Processed fairly, lawfully and in a transparent manner.
- Used for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes.
- Used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited.
- Accurate and kept up to date.
- Kept no longer than is necessary.
- Processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the data.
Government policies and laws are definitely a step in the right direction. But the digital landscape constantly shifts at an extremely fast rate that traditional lawmakers can have trouble keeping up with.
We started Swomi to level the playing field for the everyday person. We believe everyone deserves and has the right to receive the value of their online content. Our goal is to provide the technology to make this kind of user empowered world possible. We call this way of life the Content lifestyle.
To learn more about our “Why,” visit our Swomi About Us page. Thanks for reading!
This article is part of our “Future Content" series where we write an article for each letter of the phrase. “Future Content” explores what the future may hold for your online content.
Click below to read more articles in the “Future Content” series: