Suzanne Forbes, T324 staffer, here with another tech-related anecdote! On Sunday night I was at dinner with a long-time Apple employee, a SalesForce employee, a “white-hat” hacker and a sys-admin for a Y-Combinator startup. The topic of trust in the major technology players came up. Trust in a business or consumer relationship (which is what our relationships with technology are, despite the way we anthropomorphize them) is based on reliable delivery of a product and value for money spent.
So what are the products of these companies? Apple and Microsoft sell technology products; Microsoft also sells advertising. Google (like Facebook) sells advertising, and us. That’s right, we are Google’s product. Google sells our eyeballs to advertisers, and it sells the data it mines about us from search as analytics. Bing Ads is Microsoft’s way of getting in on the valuable search-based data-mining market. Generally, when a technology service or product is free, you are the product.
Is this a bad thing? Not always. Customizing search via data-mining can lead to a faster, more finely-tuned search process, and may result in ads you actually want to see. While being the product means you don’t have the freedom of choice you have in choosing a product, like when you buy Apple or Microsoft software, it also means you’re getting a service you need without paying money for it. The question is, do you trust Google with all that information about you? Do you want your preferences sold as marketing data? Well, it’s been happening all your life. If you’ve ever subscribed to a magazine, your name has probably been put on a mailing list that the magazine sold to advertisers and other magazines. 21st Century technology simply means your name is sold faster and farther than ever before.
Do I use DuckDuckGo? Nah. Most of the time, the filter bubble serves me, and I’m not too worried about hiding my search for “Steampunk Bustle Skirt”. But it’s good to know that you have a choice.
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