You’re not the customer – you’re the product

Hot on the heels of a discussion I just had regarding [my] waning interest in certain social media services, Lifehacker points this out:

MetaFilter user blue_beetle accurately observed that “if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. This sentiment doesn’t just apply to unhappy Digg users but to a significant portion of the online experience and many real life interactions.

I disagree with the part about real life interaction, which no semblance of online media richness can ever replace. But I’d say the rest of it is spot on, at least as it relates to intangible offerings.


Thanks for that. It’s a good reminder of the stark reality that all this “free” internet is really about – we’re providing something far more valuable than they’re offering us. Makes me want to resign from all of it.

So is there a search engine that doesn’t track results and provide them to others? And e-mail service? I have a .mac subscriber acct, but would switching to that provide any more privacy?

If you actually download your email versus accessing it via a web interface, you are probably ok. Unless of course someone is watching your every move (which is probably the case with the Smithzilla).

As for search, well there are some tricks we can discuss offline.

Marshall Cutchin says:

That’s a great observation. Not unrelated: Check out the new Scorcese documentary on Fran Leibowitz — “Public Speaking.” Among the other jewels in there is her description of herself — perhaps the only person in New York City without a handheld something or other — as being the only one actually “having interactions.” She also recently said in an NPR interview (paraphrasing): “You can’t have art without a discerning audience.” So what does social media produce? Perhaps the opposite of art?

My opinions on human interaction became stronger with every new set of iPod earbuds I saw on passersby. The exploding mobile market only buttressed thoughts on the matter.

I even take talking on the phone over email, text, IM and social messaging. Sadly, I’m probably a scarce commodity in that regard, and it takes two to tango.

Oh, the irony. If you were just more willing to text, IM, e-mail,continually update your status on Faceboo, and engage in other forms of remote communication, I bet your social life would really take off.

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