A better way to pay for 'free' content

Tired of being tracked? Hate paying for news you're used to getting for free? Just answer a few simple questions and all will be revealed.

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If I didn’t like the question being asked I could ask for a different one. They ranged from what brands of shoes I prefer to whether I read the labels on food packages to how many snacks I eat each day. Or I could choose to simply share the story on Facebook.

The survey came with a disclaimer that explained the questions were being asked by Google, which was paying CSM for the privilege of doing market research on its readers. It also said this:

Your answer to this question is anonymous – it’s not connected to your personally identifiable information and is not used to develop a profile or to deliver ads to you….. Like the ads on the web, some surveys may be delivered to you based on the interests and inferred demographics associated with your browser.

And then it offered a link to opt out of Google’s ad tracking.

What’s nice about these surveys is that they make the value exchange explicit in a way 99.999 percent of Internet transactions do not. Everyone kinda/sorta knows that the price for free content is viewing ads. But the details of this bargain keep changing, and not for our benefit. More and more companies are collecting more and more information about us without delivering anything more than they did five or ten years ago. Many of them are collecting data that has nothing to do with delivering ads.

The price for “free” content is going up, and the fine print on that deal is written in invisible ink.

It’s true that having to answer a question every time I want to read something would get old. I might eventually decide I’d rather pay for the content directly, share other more personal information with the publisher, or, heck, even allow advertisers to track me in a limited way.

But the choice wouldn’t be invisible, and it would be mine to make. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Got a question about social media or privacy? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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