Saturday

The Cost Of Free Stuff

Free stuff is great. As a miserly Scot, I am hip to that - and there is a lot of free stuff available on the Internet. However, no charge does not mean no cost; with very few exceptions there are trade offs that should be taken into consideration when using free products. Email is probably the example most of us are familiar with; there are a lot of free web-based email services, such as Gmail, Hotmail (now Outlook.com), Yahoo! Mail and so on and so on.
The free version of these services are supported by advertising. There is a lot of hardware behind something like an email service, and it has to be paid for somehow. Advertising is one thing, but targeted advertising is where the value supposedly is, and in order to provide the information advertisers need, emails can be scanned for key words and phrases that give advertisers a clue as to your current interests.

If you are surprised that your emails are "reviewed", you shouldn't be, although it can be a little unsettling. Free cloud storage services are also scanned, although sometimes for different reasons such as software piracy or for other illegal things like child pornography.

If you remember a couple of things, you perhaps won't feel any better, but at least you will have a more realistic outlook on free stuff on the Internet:

1 - there's no such thing as a free lunch

2 - anything that is online or in the cloud is ultimately accessible to some extent by others, whether advertisers or the government or other authorities

Sorry to burst the bubble, but that's where we are.

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