The price of free apps is not zero

(cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

You may not hand over money for that cool app, but you might pay in other ways.

Like handing over personal information.  Or perhaps the personal information of your friends.

An article in the Wall Street Journal, Selling You on Facebook, reports on their research into the data obtained by a variety of Facebook apps. Many apps look for personal information, sometimes including your political or religious beliefs.

More disconcerting is many of the apps grab information about your friends. If you choose to share your information with advertisers, that your business. If that’s not what you had in mind, then it might be of concern for you if your friends give your private information away.

From the article:

A Wall Street Journal examination of 100 of the most popular Facebook apps found that some seek the email addresses, current location and sexual preference, among other details, not only of app users but also of their Facebook friends. One Yahoo service powered by Facebook requests access to a person’s religious and political leanings as a condition for using it.

Summarized in one paragraph are two powerful truths about social media:

This appetite for personal data reflects a fundamental truth about Facebook and, by extension, the Internet economy as a whole: Facebook provides a free service that users pay for, in effect, by providing details about their lives, friendships, interests and activities. Facebook, in turn, uses that trove of information to attract advertisers, app makers and other business opportunities.

First, the price for those free apps is your private information. If that’s okay with you, then fine. But count the cost.

Second, you are not Facebook’s customer – the advertisers are the real customer. You are the product being sold. Again, count the cost.  Facebook is soon going public with a possible valuation of $100 billion. That value is from selling personal information.

An accompanying article discusses How to Control What Facebook Apps See.  Great tips on how to modify your privacy settings.

Check out the full articles for lots more details.

Again, there’s great stuff out there. Count the cost.

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