Mark Rolston Writes for The Next Web on the High Cost of a Free Internet

In the aftermath of several Facebook scandals involving the misuse of personal data, there is still no satisfactory resolution to filter out disinformation and protect the privacy and security of end users. Mark Rolston of argodesign wrote for The Next Web about the need for internet users to claim the right of personal data ownership, particularly on social media.

The practice of collecting and selling personal data has been a part of Facebook’s business model from the beginning. And for its users, “as long as we’re enjoying the fruits of a free internet that’s fundamentally being paid for by advertising, products like Facebook, Twitter, and other ‘free’ sites are going to continue to do things that don’t always align with our interests.”

As personal data becomes more valuable, why should these types of companies reap the benefits? One man in Australia attempted to answer this question by requesting his data from Facebook and then auctioning the data to the highest bidder on eBay. Although his auction was shut down by eBay after it reached $540, he did make a point that our data belongs to us and not to Facebook.

GDPR privacy laws in Europe that return data ownership to the people have made progress, but there is still much to be done. Systems of tracking are becoming more sophisticated, and most internet users are still unaware of the personal data they are giving away. With new technologies will come new ways to analyze data. Systems born from this can either be used to better our lives or as a form of exploitation.

Mark reminded readers that the internet should not be purely commercial. “Computing has much more to offer humanity than optimized shopping, and we instinctively understand that despite the current trend.” Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between today’s ad-supported experiences and our values. Our data belongs to us, and we shouldn’t continue to allow ourselves to be a “product of the internet.”


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