You might as well be a cake of soap on the shelf at the store. The supermarket is “free” for the soap. The soap isn’t paying to be there, and you’re not paying for the web for the same reason. You’re the product.
If you mattered at all you’d be getting a cut of the proceeds.
Google made $60,000,000,000, 60 billion, sixty billion-with-a-b, last year. Eighty eight percent of that is estimated to be from advertising. You are the eyes that advertising is buying. Are you seeing royalties from Google for your essential role in this? How about from Dataium ($2 billion profit per year)? Or BlueKai, Acxiom, or Omniture (now part of Adobe)? How about Splunk? (Don’t you just love the cool, we-juggle-at-the-office names?) Or any of the hundred other hidden internet tracking companies all making profit off you?
In an article about a company that wants to sell people vaults for their personal data, “Fatemeh Khatibloo of Forrester Research said consumers want to know when data about them is collected and stored and by whom, and how it is used.” The Wall Street Journal has a list of how many trackers are planted after visits to common web sites. Dozens. Sometimes hundreds. How many of them do you even know exist, let alone what they collect and how long they store it?
What you want matters as much as what the cake of soap wants.
We’ve lost control over our own lives so completely that most people’s only response is to apply the pragmatism of the damned and ask “Whatchya gonna do?”
I don’t know what to do either. Tactics are never my strong suit. All I really have is one long bellow to SMASH THE BASTARDS.
However, I do know what we should do. We should get our rights back. We should get recognition of the fact that our information is part of our selves. Just as we have the right to control what’s done to our bodies, as in the ancient right of habeas corpus, likewise we have the right to control what’s done to our information. (Also some other posts: 1 and 2.)
Nobody can track you without your explicit consent, and only for the explicit purpose you agreed to. And when you want to revoke the permission, they have to expunge their databases.
Yes, I know that’s so far from current reality as to be ridiculous. But that only speaks badly for current reality. It doesn’t change what’s true.