The success of the consumer Internet can be attributed to a simple grand bargain. We’ve been encouraged to search the web, share our lives with friends, and take advantage of all sorts of other free services. In exchange, the Internet titans that provide these services, as well as hundreds of other lesser-known firms, have meticulously tracked our every move in order to bombard us with targeted advertising. Now, this grand bargain is being tested by new attitudes and technologies.
Consumers who were not long ago blithely dismissive of privacy issues are increasingly feeling that they’ve lost control over their personal information. Meanwhile, Internet companies, adtech firms, and data brokers continue to roll out new technologies to build ever more granular profiles of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of consumers. And with next generation of artificial intelligence poised to exploit our data in ways we can’t even imagine, the simple terms of the old agreement seem woefully inadequate.
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Facebook, Google, and their ilk make billions of dollars by appropriating your data and selling it to anyone who is willing to pay for it. You and I got little of value in return.
They are not our friends.