Somehow we have come to the conclusion that we want everything for free. We get apps and sign up for webpages that offer us lifesaving convenience for free! The problem is, as we all know, is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We are constantly trading something for the convenience of using whatever the latest greatest technology is.
Sometimes this trade-off is pretty transparent. If I buy a new phone, I know that part of the cost is absorbed in my monthly fees. I get a “free” phone and end up paying a couple thousand dollars to the company over a two-year contract term. Is the phone free? Not really. But that’s the way we look at it. The word “free” is very powerful.
I recently bought an iPad (paid full price) and I started getting some apps for it. My sister plays Words with Friends, and I’ve heard quite a bit about it. I’m a Scrabble nut, so I wanted to try it. I got the “free” version. I had to give it access to my Facebook information, which I’m always hesitant to do. Then, I tried playing a game. After each move, I get an advertisement piped in that I get to watch. So I can either subject myself to constant ads, or I have to pay the going rate… I think it’s about $5 for the full version.
I don’t mind this so much because I know the bargain that I’ve signed up for. I am getting something for no cost (I hesitate to use “free” here) in exchange for sitting through advertising. Youtube subscribes to this type of service as do many webpages. It is annoying, but it is overt and clear.
The scary stuff for me is the worms that lurk inside of my cloud computing every time I sign up for a new free service giving it access to my cookies or facebook account or twitter or whatever. These applications then have access to all kinds of information about me, where I browse, who I’m friends with, and what I search for. I have no real way to tell who is out there collecting data on me. But I decided that playing that Game of Thrones app on Facebook was worth giving some anonymous people somewhere access to all of my information.
Would you trust some random person on the street who offered you something “free” for a peek into your address book or wallet? Would you trust someone you never met to know the names of your closest friends and relatives. To see their images and all of that? Probably not.
But for some reason, when it’s in cyberspace, it doesn’t feel as real. Right?
I equate this discussion to the national security debate. In that argument, we’re giving up freedom and privacy for safety. In this argument, what are we trading our freedom and privacy for?