So how is it that Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn can all offer their services for free?
Most people assume it’s because of the money they make from advertisements. But that’s only part of it. In actuality, you aren’t really their customer at all. Rather, you’re their product and primary source of income.
Today, everything is connected via iCloud or Google products. But that convenience comes at a cost: our privacy. Just imagine all the intimate insights into your private life that you’ve unwittingly shared with Google: that time years ago when you googled “Symptoms of gonorrhea” or “Am I pregnant?” These searches didn’t fade with the passage of time.
They’re still stored in a database somewhere, and could be used against you when you least expect it.
That’s exactly what happened to British 26-year-old Van Bryan, who, before traveling to the US, tweeted to a friend that they should meet “before I go and destroy America.” Unfortunately, the US Department of Homeland Security didn’t appreciate the poetry of this party metaphor; they flagged him as a potential security threat and barred him and his partner from entering the United States.
Very often we simply have no idea what kind of information we’re giving up and what it will be used for. That’s because terms and conditions, which outline that information, are designed such that we ignore everything on the page except “I Agree.”
One day you might walk by a pharmacy and see a picture you took last summer of your child playing in the sand in an advertisement for children’s sunblock. If it’s on Instagram, it’s no longer yours.
Similarly, all the documents you store on Google Drive belong to Google.
If J. K. Rowling had written Harry Potter using Google Docs, she would have given Google the rights to the book and squandered her potential $15 billion fortune along with it.