Technology users don’t seem to understand that in general there is no such thing as a free lunch. If a particular digital service is free, your personal information is most likely being sold to the highest bidder. The personal information about you gleaned from your Facebook Likes, Google searches, Gmail messages, etc… may be bought and sold by advertisers, data brokers, governments, competitors, etc… Sometimes, services you pay for may even buy and sell your personal information without your knowledge.
The bottom line is that consumers need to read and understand the Terms and Conditions, (e.g. Terms of Service and Privacy Policies) of the digital platforms they utilize. While it would be very consumer friendly if there was greater transparency and accountability regarding the buying and selling of your personal information, our current privacy laws and regulatory environment have not kept pace with technology.
Recently, Unroll.me, which is an email management service, was exposed for selling its users’ personal data to various companies including ride-sharing company Uber. Unroll.me’s service is free and it appears that many users had no idea that their personal data was being sold to third parties.
I don’t use Unroll.me and do not recommend those who value their privacy to do so; however, some people feel that trading their personal information for access to the service is a positive value proposition. Whether Unroll.me or other technology services should be required to provide more robust warnings regarding how they handle and utilize the personal information of users is a matter of public policy. The bottom line is that user’s need to read and understand the legal agreements of the services they utilize.