Did privacy ever exist?

I’m in the IT world since a while. More often people are using their computer for business occassions as well for their leisure. In the media more and more article are published about big companies who don’t respect our privacy. Is this a mistake of those companies? Is it something new or is it as old as the companies?

The problem is that lot of people, consumers, often forget why a company is on the market. A company, according Western measure, has the goal to make profit. They achieve this by adding value to the market and in exchange for this they receive a compensation. A lot of consumers are confused who these companies customers really are. A motto which describes everything and often forgotten by people is “free doesn’t exist”.

I will explain what I mean with this.

In the previous century, long before internet was accepted by the mass, companies tried also to market their products based on your privacy information. The problem was that not everyone understood or saw the manner they achieved this with.

Years the Dutch Chamber of Commerce sold, which were ‘free’ in their database, addresses to other companies so they could use these addresses to send them marketing letters. You could state which criteria they had to met like which area, how long the company exists and how much the maximum distance of your postal code could be to be included.

Later on the dutch phonebook as the yellow pages saw a big market in this. You now understand why those companies were sold for enormous sums. This is valuable information for marketeers.

In the past also big companies let consumer fill in and send forms so the consumers receive an amount of their money back on their bank account. Did they do this because you were such a nice customer? No, they did this because it was cheaper and more accurate than buying those addresses. Most of the times those databases with addresses were obsolete and expensive.

If we now look on the current examples of big companies:

  1. Google
    • Who doesn’t know them… the ultimate example of free… it is free, isn’t it. Google sells ads to the highest bidder. 9 billion US$ in 1 quarter is not because of giving things free, see here. You are NOT the customer of Google. The buyers of advertising are. They have special departments for servicing their customers. You try to call Google.
  2. Facebook
    • Lately the king of privacy marketing mentioned in the media. This company should have a value, according analysts, around 100 billion dollars. That could not be the case if everything was free. Their customers are also the ad buyers. You can use the system for free and they can show you their ads. Everything is mentioned in their policy and user license agreements, which nobody reads. If you accepts those terms, you can use it, if not, then not. Easy like that.
  3. Groupon
    • Discounts, discounts and discounts. People are in love of discounts and coupons. Again as visitor of this website you are not the customer of Groupon. The companies who offer you their services and products are the customer of Groupon. They have to pay an amount to Groupon, and not that little percentage. It’s working well but sometimes the offers outside Groupon are even better.

And there are so many to mention. But Ramond, is this all bad? No, of course not. The searchengine of Google works well, Facebook is handy to keep in touch with contacts, especially international and yes sometimes even Groupon has a nice discount. But what the issue is that all those companies use your personal information to make more profit. Is that bad? In my opinion it is not because you are not forced to use their services. Nobody force you to use Google or Facebook. You can also visit the library and search their. Wait. In NL they also keep track of the books you have read in the library, mandatory by government rules. Nobody speaks about privacy here…

Free doesn’t exist…

But it’s not that bad…