It is not giant tech corporations that are misusing your data, it is you who is misplacing it. We’ve all heard parents say that nothing in life is for free. I guess nobody ever understood that, given the repercussions of using Google or Facebook for free.

People getting upset over “the government” or “the elites” being able to spy on you. “Oh, they can track your online activity and determine where you are, who you are meeting, what you like, when you like it, etc.” That is factually true, data monoliths have all sorts of information on most of their users, from credit card activity, to location, to social interactions. With all that data one can easily spot where you paid for your coffee with card and roughly estimate how long you’ve been there. That is unless you tag yourself out of the cafe you were just at. And then these very same people become bitter over “how you are always watched by the government”.

People fail to see that it is all avoidable. But nobody ever likes to think of the opportunity cost whenever convenience is on the line. In the business world you opportunity cost is the the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. Let’s say you wanted to start a pizza shop. You need to determine if the value of being the owner of the shop is greater than any of your other choices.

When the questions becomes one of data it is just as easy to apply the same mentality. On one side you have the convenience of “registering with you Facebook account” in all other websites you use. It saves you the time of entering your name, email, figuring out a password – a job too strenuous for a regular person. In exchange you are feeding Facebook’s record of your interests and online activity.  On the other side you can choose not to register via Facebook, thus depriving them of your activity there.

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Think about how interconnected all of our devices are becoming. And the more information they funnel out, the more accurate a picture an advertisement algorithm will have of you. In order to not let some piece of data add to your digital footprint you ought to use online services in a suboptimal way. This is not to say that it is inconvenient, but it just is not too popular. And just like outsourcing jobs in Asia makes US products cheaper giving away more activity data makes services become more efficient. In both cases this is beneficial to the consumer – lower prices, more efficiency. In the same way that US citizens must be willing to pay more for US made goods, you need to think if your suboptimal online experience is worth saving your data for. And in time, if enough people see that they would prefer services that don’t store their data, then that would become standard.

 

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