Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 19th Dec 2012 21:23 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y Derek Powazek exposes the meaninglessness of the already overused tripe 'If you're not paying for the product, you are the product'. "But we should not assume that, just because we pay a company they'll treat us better, or that if we're not paying that the company is allowed to treat us like shit. Reality is just more complicated than that. What matters is how companies demonstrate their respect for their customers. We should hold their feet to the fire when they demonstrate a lack of respect. And we should all stop saying, 'if you're not paying for the product, you are the product', because it doesn't really mean anything, it excuses the behavior of bad companies, and it makes you sound kind of like a stoner looking at their hand for the first time." Nailed it.
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We are products
by ndrw on Fri 21st Dec 2012 00:21 UTC
ndrw
Member since:
2009-06-30

Calling someone a product feels wrong and unethical but it is just stating a fact - that businesses collect, use and trade information about us. Yes, the prices vary (in general case between zero and infinity) but that's what prices are in any market. What matters is the price at which bulk of transactions takes place.

Being a product doesn't also mean that businesses will treat us worse than customers. If a company has few products and a lot of customers the products automatically become more valuable.

When we think about people being products we tend to label them "slaves", at least in our subconsciousness. But that's not true either - there is no exploitation involved, and we choose if and who we give our data to. If anything, it is very much like dealing with agents on a job market, insurances etc.

So, yes, we are products anytime we give our data to others. Information is valuable, the company will use it, either internally or collaboratively with others. We don't know what will happen but the usual market rules apply ("you get what you pay for"). In particular, if the company's business model relies on charging money for accessing its resources, it may be less inclined to misuse information about us than a company which gets money mostly from other sources.

Reply Score: 4

RE: We are products
by Alfman on Fri 21st Dec 2012 05:47 in reply to "We are products"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

ndrw,

"When we think about people being products we tend to label them 'slaves', at least in our subconsciousness. But that's not true either - there is no exploitation involved, and we choose if and who we give our data to. If anything, it is very much like dealing with agents on a job market, insurances etc."

I think it's important to distinguish between a free choice versus a coercive one. This is an extreme example for the sake of illustration:

One day a homeless man might walk up to you and ask for money with his cup, you have a free choice to give him money or not. Another day a robber walks up to you and asks for money with his knife, you have a coercive choice to give him money or not.

The free choice is independent of other factors: do you want to give him money or not? The coercive choice is a trade-off and often involves a penalty: if you don't give him money, he might cause bodily harm.

Obviously there are various degrees of coerciveness, with bodily harm being at one end, and denial of service being at the other. But ether way it represents a non-free choice.

Much to my dismay, the android APIs explicitly force users to make coercive privacy choices over free choices when installing applications. In order to run an app I have to "choose" to give it access to my email contacts even when I'd never really choose to do that freely. There's CyanogenMod and possibly other patches to fix this, but it does show google's preference for coercive user choices.

Reply Parent Score: 3