From the monolithic and devastating Equifax breach, to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that happened only a few months ago, few of us truly realize that “free” platforms aren’t free. Rather, they allow you to use their services at the cost of unregulated, unchecked, undisclosed collection of your PII (personally identifiable information). They then sell your data to large firms who will use it to market products or services to you that they think you are likely to purchase. It’s a huge, seldom talked about industry worth $42 billion as of 2018. In less than ten years, big data is projected to be worth over $100 billion.
In short: To Facebook, Google, and thousands of media websites across the internet, YOU are their product. And they’re making a killing.
Your opinion on this topic will likely hinge on how much you value your privacy. Many people dislike the idea of gigantic data collectors, whereas others really couldn’t care if it doesn’t inconvenience them or otherwise bring them hardship. More than likely, however, they don’t even realize just how much about them is out there, siting in a database, waiting to be used. Whatever your opinion is, it should come as no surprise that there is a black market for your information, as with any other legitimate industry.
It’s a pretty complex topic, and not one that should be taken lightly. As technology moves forward, and as we become ever more dependent on it, the conversation on how data should be used will likely play an important part on the digital privacy landscape. This article from Forbes does an awesome job at putting a technical and jargon-y topic into plain English. If you’re interested in finding out more about how pieces of information about you can be used, check out the article HERE.