“There is no free lunch. This is how Google makes a living. If we take away its source of income, there will be no free map, online translator program, storage for our files, pictures and videos, and so on.” (A Facebook follower of HCLU, our Hungarian member organization, commenting on HCLU’s post about the #YourDataYourBusiness campaign.)
First of all, let me confess. I am the biggest fan of Google Maps. I really, really love having a small gadget in my hand that tells me not only where the address I am looking for is, but also the best way to get there by public transport, the price of the taxi if I want to spoil mayself, and the nearest place to that address where I can buy a decent lunch. I also use online translators and storage services. They save me from so many struggles and mishaps.
Do I want to lose these services or pay for them from now on? No, I do not. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with paying for online services – I do pay for a number of magazine subscriptions and online course providers. But I do not particularly like paying.
Of course, upon reflection, I know that there is no free lunch and I am paying for the services that come across as free. I am paying with my data. And that data is valuable, because it helps firms to measure me up and to make the most profit out of me. But in my daily life, I just don't mind that. As long as they don't ask me to take money out of my wallet, or my online wallet, I am fine.
Or I was. Until I started reading technology magazines and academic papers on how the online advertising works. These days I'm much less happy with the idea of sharing all sorts of information about myself with whoever who wants to receive it. Not because I am worried about the consequences on my life (although such a worry is completely legit), but because if we, you, me, my neighbors, your grandpa do that, we give away too much power. When getting to know you, your desires, your hidden fears is just a matter of money and then whispering stories tailored specifically to you is also just a matter of money, what will happen to our democracies? If our democracies go down the drain, what will happen to our freedoms and our rights?
So, will you lose your “free” services if the #YourDataYourBusiness campaign achieves its aim? Don’t worry, you won’t. Online advertising is a huge and very lucrative business. If we achieve our aim, it will still be a huge and lucrative business. Just a huge and lucrative business that stays in line with the law. Mind you, we are not asking Google and IAB Europe to make sure that from now on there is no online advertising. We are not asking them to decrease the number of banners we see every day. You will still see banners everywhere.
What we ask of them is simple: respect the law and do not share our personal data with firms we have never heard about. Of course, certain actors in the industry may lose some money if they start to respect the laws. But let me remind you that this happens to you every day. You “lose” money by not stealing and by paying your taxes. It is now their turn to take their fair share of the burden, to do the right thing and respect the law. Do not worry. They will survive. So will your free Google Maps.