We’ve entered an era of free, but at what cost?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve never paid for an application. Okay, I take that back. I’ve been persuaded a time or two to opt-in on a freemium model to unlock certain features. But when considering my primary app usage: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, (you get the picture) I’ve never spent a dime. Now, how can these billion-dollar conglomerates hope to survive while offering you their product free of charge? Well, it turns out that the application isn’t the product; you know what the product is? Yup, you’ve guessed it. It turns out; you’re the product.
No one wants to pay for anything that can be had for free elsewhere. This comes with a variety of trade-offs, and the individual is increasingly at the mercy of this cost-benefit analysis. As the stakes are continually raised, the potential ramifications of signing off on the usage of your data willy-nilly like will most certainly come with real consequences. Let me make this clear. I’m not talking about criminals. I’m talking about school teachers, stay at home moms, doctors, lawyers. Everyone will have to come to terms with what gifting your data means.
These powerhouses of the tech industry have monetized their user base through a variety of data tracking measures and other slight of hand tricks. I’ll speak more to this in, “How Big Business Uses Your Data” found below.
How Big Business Uses Your Data
Did you know consumers will pay a higher net price for a product to get free shipping (Inc.com)? Let me spell that out for you. A consumer, because of how the human psyche has evolved, will happily pay say $25.00 for an item that comes with free shipping, but not $17.50 for the same product if it comes with an additional $5.00 cost for the shipping. How do we know this?
What does this have to do with the misguided use of my data? Well, explicitly, not much. But this anecdote of human behavior gives us some insight as to how people likely will behave over more extended periods. As I mentioned above, I don’t pay for applications, at least in fiat, but make no mistake, I am paying. I’ve just tricked myself into thinking what is being labeled as free, is in fact, free.
Here are some fun facts you may not have realized when you installed some of the following applications;
Twitter’s terms of service are 34 pages long. Until today, I hadn’t intentionally read a single line. Snapchat’s terms of service is an astounding 8,676 words while Facebook comes in at a modest 3,263 words. This article, in its entirety, for comparison purposes, is just 1,014 words.
I haven’t even gotten started as to what those pages and words mean for their users. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts:
Facebook doesn’t just track your behaviors, they also have insight into your finances. Take a look, “If you use our Products for purchases or other financial transactions (such as when you make a purchase in a game or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction. This includes payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information; other account and authentication information; and billing, shipping and contact details.” (Facebook terms of service)
If you’re a professional photographer, you might want to think twice about posting to Instagram. Read this over, and then I’ll explain. When you post a photo to Instagram, you’ve agreed that Instagram has “non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use their content.” (TheConversation.com)What does this mean? Instagram essentially has the same rights to your photos that you do, potentially putting you, the photographer, in hot water if you’ve signed a contract expressing exclusive licensure to someone else.
I can go on and on of examples just like this, but I’ll save those who want to be spared from the existential crisis a little heartache.
A Potential Solution
With the momentum and general acceptance of the current state of things, it might take some doing to change tides when it comes to owning and managing your data, but I’m happy to say, things are being done around this problem. For example:
ODIN.Chat a Secure, Blockchain-Powered, Decentralized-Messenger.
ODIN wants you to own your conversation. Having realized the impending doomsday scenario where massive leaks of personal data lead to real-world consequences, ODIN Blockchain decided to do something about it and built ODIN.Chat, a blockchain-powered, secure messenger with the end user’s privacy in mind.
What makes ODIN.Chat different than the products that claim to be free?
When ODIN Blockchain decided to build a free messenger, we put a lot of thought into what free means not just to us, but to the end-user too. Here’s a list of things we don’t ask for when you use our product: your name, your date of birth, your address, we don’t even ask for your email address, all of which other companies see as revenue when you sign up. We don’t even ask you to create a username and risk being linked to other accounts that might share certain features of that name. It truly is private. We might not be changing the world by ourselves, but we certainly hope to be apart of the group that does.
About the author
Christopher Reeder is ODIN Blockchain’s Lead Content Strategist and Technical Writer. As an advocate and researcher, he is exploring technology’s impact on privacy.
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