Free it says!
We click. hold our breath with anticipation. What wonders await? Boundless possibilities! We arrive on a website, scroll. Then our hopes are dashed, like so many childhood dreams. In order to get the free thing we have to pay, only not with money but with our personal information.
Is this free?
From a financial perspective no money chnges hands so technically, yes it is free. But we are paying with something potentially more precious than money – our information.
Further it is not always obvious that we are paying with our information. In some cases it will be clear that, in oder to download xx resource we have to give our name and email address. GDPR will help in this space as the form we enter our details into will also need to explain what the information is going to be used for. This explicit consent is a cornerstone of the new regulation.
More worrying are the myriad number of websites (particularly those of a social networking nature) tracking and monitoring our personal information and behaviours, information which is then sold to advertisers and companies to exploit. All this happens under the guise of a ‘free’ service.
The price we pay then is not financial but with our personal freedom. Freedom to not be tracked, Freedom from advertisement, Freedom from a very particular view of news and information, Freedom to see the internet in the way we want to.
Will data protection laws change this? To some extent. Powerful vested interests will most likely perpetuate and individuals who do not know better will continue to pay this heavy price for free.
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