Free services are a sort of honey pot for online services. They attract users and, as significantly, their private info, which in its turn permits corporations like Google and Facebook to sell advertising.
A large amount of users, when they even consider the exchange, treat the advertising as a minor nuisance. They may point to television and note that our television broadcasting system was built on advertising, so why not use advertising to pay for cloud-based info services?
The problem is that information is not television. TV was crucial but advertisers had small effect on anything other than possibly dumbing down the content of the shows themselves. However , the integrity of private and commercial information is vital to the functioning of the modern economy and the necessity for advertising is having a variety of harmful effects on the info services provided to consumers.
In my Cost of Lost Privacy series, I highlighted the indirect effect of firms like Google using that personal data and behavior promoting to permit advertisers like subprime banks to prey on exposed populations and increase business inequality. But advertising has a less complicated effect that makes most online info services less functional for all users and probably toxic in their wider effects on data integrity and the structure of the web itself.
Deliberate Absence of Security in Information Services : The necessity to collect user information so as to share it with advertisers suggests that online firms purposively avoid encryption and other measures that would better protect user info. After technology researcher Chris Soghoian published a NY Times op-ed noting that most hacks didn’t recognize the lack of security in online services, Google’s top D.C. Privacy lobbyist, William DeVries, wrote on his very own Google+ page that Chris was “dead right. Writers (and blog writers, and small businesses) need to take a couple hours and learn how to use free, widely available safety measures to store info and communicate.”
The question, as Soghoian indicated on his own site in a follow-up post, is that Google products are not secure out of the box on purpose “because the corporation’s business structure depends upon the monetization of user info, the company keeps as much information as possible about the activities of its users. These detailed notes are not just useful to Google’s engineers and advertising teams, but are also a mouth-watering target for law enforcement agencies.” Vint Cerf, Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist” admitted latterly on a panel that “we could not run our system if everything in it were encrypted because then we would not know which adverts to show you. So this is a system that was designed around a particular business model.”
This implies not only repressive regimes can more easily get access to your information but ID thieves and other black hat hackers can too. Site after site asks for user names and passwords, many users repeating the same password, so that hacking one unsecure site suddenly opens every online account to burglary and vandalism.
Lack of Online Anonymity : Tied into the clamour to sell to advertisers is the inflating refusal of web services to permit anonymous users. “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog” — once the standard joke about anonymity online — has give way to a Big Brother-ish demand for continual identity checks by online sites.
Google’s requirement that only “real names” be utilized in online Google+ accounts is the most recent example of this, with MANAGING DIRECTOR Eric Schmidt admitting latterly in an interview that the reason is to make it an “identity service” to sell people things:. As Schmidt explained :
“if we knew that this was a genuine person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them, we could give them things, we could you know bill them, you know we could have mastercards and so forth.”
“Apple and Google both seem enthusiastic about NFC technology (near-field communication),” writes, Mathew Ingram at the site Gigomon, “which turns portable gadgets into electronic wallets, and having a social network tied to an individual user’s identity would come in handy.”
This hard-line against anonymity implies the viewpoints of political dissidents or employee whistleblowers who don’t want their names made public are silenced in such environments, all for the sake of making advertisers content and facilitating e-commerce by online firms.
Bad Site Design : It isn’t as life-threatening an issue, but advertising drives web design (in Croatian translate web dizajn) that’s ugly, confusing and time-intensive for users. To maximize “page views” that can each hold advertising and generate advertising money, articles are parsed into multiple pages. The Columbia Journalism Review describes an identical “Faustian bargain” of the expansion of multiple-page “slide shows” to in a similar fashion generate multiple pages to generate ad greenbacks.
This is mixed with pages where ads rule more and more display space, where as the Knight Digital Media Center explains, “”As news distributors scrimmage for money, advertisers have gained leverage to demand more–and more prominent–digital space. The ensuing ad-heavy homepages make business sense–but the result is visually ‘appalling.’”
Strengthening the “Tawdry” Side of Capitalism : Net idealist Jaron Lanier, who has been writing about the Net since before most folks ever heard about its existence, disagrees that such identity-based appeals by corporations gives advertising a bad name. He disagreed in an interview 1 or 2 months ago :
Google’s thing isn’t advertising because it’s not a romanticizing operation. It does not involve expression… It’s a little miniscule minimalist link, and fundamentally what they are selling isn’t advertising, they’re not selling romance, they’re not selling communication, what they are doing is selling access…”You give us cash, we give you access to these folks, and then what you do with them is up to you.”
Lanier observes that corporations taking advantage of such identity-based access aren’t customarily from the “dignified side of capitalism” but instead “tend to be lots of ambulance chasers and snake oil salesmen.”
So chasing those low-road advertisers, we see many online info services building internet sites that are less secure, less functional, uglier and weaken political freedom in the service of the needs of those advertisers.
A Substitute for Advertising : The upward thrust of paid applications has shown one option road where tiny payments by users inspire firms to design services only in the interests of users instead of third party advertisers. Even services without delay on the web often use a “freemium” model that eschews advertising in favour of providing basic free services to any user, while gaining money from a smaller subset of users who like the service enough to pay a subscription to open more advanced features.
To encourage that alternative of Net design only In the interests of users, we need policy to better preserve user privacy so that no company can track or share user information without that user’s direct opt-in to each use of their data. Clearer transactions around loss of user info to advertisers (and probably to hackers and ID thieves because of shortage of security) will inspire more of those users to select better-designed and safer paid alternatives as reported tagza.com.