Have you ever wondered why Facebook, YouTube, Google, or Instagram do not charge their users a penny for their online services? The truth is that they get paid without touching your wallet or credit card. Users naively think that they are mere customers or consumers of online services, yet they seem to forget the truth that they are products that will be bought and sold. Big web companies provide free services and make money by collecting your personal data so as to sell it to companies that will target you later with ads. That is why when you look for something on Google, you find ads related to your search on YouTube and Facebook.
You shouldn’t get upset by this. It suffices to know that you have agreed to it. When you sign up for a service like Facebook or Google, they present you with an End-user License Agreement, which you have to accept to proceed. Of course, no one reads them, but buried deep within them, are paragraphs that allow companies to track you and potentially re-sell your information. To add insult to injury, the collected personal data is by definition not only name, sex, age, and educational level, but it is worse than what you expect since it includes the way you think and behave; your likes and dislikes; and even your mood throughout the day. In short, those companies know you better than you know yourself.
Let me ask you a simple question. How would you react if someone, you have never met or known before, called you by your nickname? I guess you would be astonished. Could imagine now your feelings towards a company that knows your secrets, whims, and desires? Really, it is scary.
This surveillance reminds me of “Big brother is watching you”. This famous saying originally comes from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. The latter depicts a society characterized by oppression, misery, and often a totalitarian form of government that attempts to put individual freedom under control in favor of the state’s absolute power.
To draw a clear analogy between what Orwell pointed out in his novel and the current case, we should be fully aware that governments are losing grounds to giant companies. in addition to that, the role that TV played in the past has been substituted with the Internet. To crown it all, social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram foster a culture of narcissism and personal display that doesn’t lead to self-satisfaction and development. Rather than connect people, such environments risk isolating them in communities of like-minded peers, make them vulnerable to electronic surveillance; therefore, they become addicted to peer approbation and peer pressure. They enjoy surfing the net with the fake feeling of freedom, yet they are imprisoned virtually, manipulated softly, and sometimes get brain-washed discreetly.
All in all, no fees incurred by such big companies don’t necessarily mean no payment. Every click on your keyboard turns out to be a dollar that you put in the pocket of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos. Furthermore, the more you browse a website, the more you lose from your privacy, only to be used later on against you.