Considering Google, Facebook and “free”

I don’t like, but tolerate, Facebook because I can keep up with so many relatives and friends. I like, but with reservations and misgivings, the Google universe of services because they are so intrusively helpful.

But after another round of “oh, not again” revelations about privacy, I’ve decided to give up on Facebook and scale back on Google. (I’ve also decided to give up arguing with people who think that privacy is quaint or outdated.) Perhaps this time I’ll be more successful.

But more even that privacy, there’s that sense of being used. A maxim is floating among the tech-geeks of the world: “if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

That’s a bit of an overstatement. A bit. There is, of course, the free culture and software movements. And if you see their contributions as a gift with wide latitude for free-riders, that could be seen as an exception. But Google and Facebook clearly are not these. Each wants information about you that can be converted into advertising. That’s a little but unseemly and a lot bit unsustainable.

I’d rather pay for what I use and help build a commercial infrastructure as an alternative to free-of-charge services. Consider pinboard.in (for bookmarking), Twilio (for telephony), many hosting companies and some credit card providers and you see the costs needn’t be high. And it’s nice to know what the relationship is.

(I’ll be stripping out the G+ +1 tag the next time I do maintenance.)

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 44, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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