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The Price of Free: Freedom

There's no shortage of free stuff on the Web. Mail is free, search is free, YouTube is free and, if you don't mind breaking copyright laws, premium movies and music are free as well.

But all this comes with a cost. If you are a pirate, the music and movie companies may come after you. And the fines are stiff than a Dean Martin cocktail.

There's also the hidden cost of free services. FaceBook seems friendly on the surface, and it sure is making a lot of lucky folks filthy rich. But when you sign up, you surrender control of your data -- which has been sold to third-party marketers. And the newest Facebook feature lets friends (and parents and bosses) track your every single little move. Like a neck tattoo, this never really goes away.

Google is one of the worst offenders. They parse Gmail for key words, then sell you to advertisers (is that why I'm getting all those weight loss banners?), and the new social media tool Google+ collects even more. Under Google's new policy, all information from all your Google services is pulled together, letting the company know more about you than family or friends possibly do.

Free comes with a price. If you sign up for free services, understand exactly what you are surrendering. It may be details of your life.

Is a lack of privacy simply the price to pay for free software and social connections or are we a bunch of dupes? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/02/2012 at 12:19 PM


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