“The Price of Free” is the first post in a series titled “Paying With Privacy” from friends at ILJ Mail.

Part One – The Beginning

I’ve been around the internet for a while.  I had my first experience in a chatroom chatting with customer service at Compuserve in 1996.   We started our internet business journey in 1997.  As people say nowadays “it’s been a minute”.

The world wide web has certainly gone through plenty of changes since then.  It’s become indispensable to most of us, you can carry it around in your pocket, the information you can find is almost limitless,  and it’s definitely gotten prettier!

So many years ago, we embraced this new technology as almost a miracle.   So much of the world had been opened up to us that we never imagined.  We eagerly lapped up the fun new toys and tools that were thrown at us on a regular basis, and because of advertisement income, you could get plenty of cool services for free. 

In fact, it seemed to have become the expectation of many that everything on the internet should be free. 

The problem, however, is that those services you use for free are paid for by the provider of that service and they have to figure out a way to make that money back.

Google officially came out of “beta” in 1999 and Facebook came on the scene in 2004.  It seemed innocent enough.  Google was a way to find the things you were looking for.  Facebook was a place to connect with people you knew, share photos, talk about events in your area, and feel like you were part of a bigger picture.  We didn’t expect the surveillance that came with it.

The dark part of this story happened while we weren’t paying attention.

Over the years we, as end users, started giving these places an abundance of information about ourselves.  We searched for things that were dear to us.  Private. 

They learned about our gender, marriage status, where we lived, what we worried about, our health issues, the shows we watch (yes, even the ones you wouldn’t want them to know about!) and they track us all through our internet connection. 

They realized that they could get more advertisement money to fund their service by identifying you, along with the information you gave them, and relating this information to companies that made products or offered services that would possibly be of interest to you. 

So many of us want to trust that these companies are not doing anything sneaky in the background.  We want to believe that they would never do anything to harm their users, but it has gone far beyond an intrusion.

Maybe it all started in innocence.  Maybe they thought they would be helping us by targeting their advertisements to just the right people.  Maybe it went too far…

Right now, unless you have put some kind of privacy protection practices in place, you are most likely being tracked everywhere you go.

(See our article here on what Google knows about you.)

Every search term you type in, every webpage you visit, every video you watch, and more is being monitored, catalogued, and stored in a database for future reference or sale to advertising companies.

Even the email messages you send and receive are subject to being scanned for advertising purposes.

It comes down to trust.   Do you trust your service provider?  If they don’t charge you anything, you should be wondering where they get their money.  You may not be paying with actual cash, but you are most likely paying with your data and privacy.

You can at least take some of that privacy back by investing in a paid email service.  Here at ILJ Mail, we offer private email with no ads or tracking. The emails sent and received through our servers are never scanned for advertising purposes or data mining.  Your email is private and we intend to keep it that way.

There is so much more to this story but it’s too much for one post! 

Click here for Part 2 “Are you Being Tracked on the Web?” (the answer is yes)

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