It is free, isn’t it?

Not all that glitters is gold, we pay a price.

I have often used products and services of the Technojungle that are deemed free. As I woke-up, I began to realize that, in the world beneath the surface of the Technojungle, the unimaginable was taking place, and I was not very well protected. I am a little more intentional now in how I use the online Technojungle. I know I could do better, but the enticements to ignore my growing wisdom, are strong. This chapter asks you to understand that, ‘…if you are not paying for it, it is not free.’ Or, ‘…you may believe it’s free, but you do pay.’

It is free, isn’t it? A lot of us think that. Well, that’s what they of the corporations in Technojungle would like you to think. They, the providers of Internet Technojungle services such as search engines and social media, provide products, including software, and services. They convince you to believe them to be free. A variation of this is a product or service that has a paid upgrade path to a premium or professional (pro) version or some sort of limited usage. Some may simply be open and available at any time for you to use freely as you choose. Others may ask you to sign up for an account. What Technojungle products and services have you encountered that seemed free?

What is a EULA, and who is protected? Corporations, or organizations, will have, if you take the time to look, some sort of an agreement that you make with them by using their Technojungle products and services. Sometimes the agreement is called an EULA (End User Licence Agreement). Usually, it is so long and complex that nobody in their right mind would ever read it, or be able to understand it. Have you ever had one of those super-long license agreements presented to you? What action did you take? What thoughts crossed your mind? 

Chances are it was daunting and you just checked a box, or an Agree button, next to something like “I have read and agree to the terms of service,” and carried on. Part of the unexpected baggage that arrived with the future is that we are kept so busy we simply don’t have time for, or understand the importance of, these sorts of agreements. This is dehumanizing. 

These agreements, for both free and paid products and services, are in place, not to protect you in any way, but to protect the provider. Why do these agreements favour the provider and you mean nothing? Because in the Technojungle, if you are not paying for it, you are not the customer, you are the product. How humanizing does that sound?

In traditional and typical marketing situations, there is an exchange of payment for products and services. So, what is the exchange of payment in the case of online Technojungle products and services? Behind the scenes lies a complex system that collects, organizes, categorizes the information that gets collected from and about you the user of the perceived product or service. Except, you are not the real customer and the product or service you are using is not the real product or service, the real customer is a corporation and the real product is you and your information. Get it? 

Besides online Technojungle corporations, such as search engine and social media, can you think of any other types of marketing that have this sort of double-sided approach? Do you feel in any way exploited by these companies? I think it is like we are being farmed and harvested. 

It’s important, so I’ll repeat it; we need to keep in mind that, in the Technojungle, ‘if you are not paying for it, you are not the customer, you are the product.’

There can be traps in the Technojungle. This life of the future can be topsy turvy in unexpected ways as things are not always as they seem when you are trying to live a human life in the Technojungle.

…if you are not paying for it, you are not the customer, you are the product.

If all this sounds more like a scam, it could be, except, if you dig around in the baggage you will likely find it explicitly stated as to what they are doing with us humans. Somewhere along the way, you agreed to it. 

When you click past long terms of service and other agreements, you are agreeing to becoming a product. You are surrendering the rights to your privacy and the collection of your information. A click can really matter in the Technojungle. This is now an acceptable business model.

What sorts of information are they collecting and what are they doing with it? Any information about you is valuable. Companies go to great lengths, such as running contests where you fill in small forms of data about yourself, all to get your name and anything else they can, from phone numbers to age. Usually, you are required to subscribe to their E-mail newsletter, or to receive marketing information. If you don’t unsubscribe, it becomes highly likely that you will become a purchasing customer. All this creates a demographic that can be used in marketing through the Technojungle. 

Have you ever found yourself in an online situation where it is stated that, although you are providing information, no personally identifiable information will be used? This is actually an official term. Did you feel you were being asked to trust that only information that can’t actually be linked to you will be used for whatever their unstated purposes might be? 

You leave information all over the Internet that could be freely accessed. Can you give some examples? Often that information can be associated with information you did agreed to have collected. Then it can reveal more about you, and that can end up being personally identifiable information (PII), or sensitive personal information (SPI). Even though it is stated that no PII is being collected, enough information may exist somewhere out there in the Technojungle that could be associated with what is being collected to make it personally identifiable and therefore more valuable. 

In the case of the Internet products and services, it is not just a matter of filling in a form with a bit of information in hopes of winning a prize. Remember, as you use the Internet to trek through the Technojungle, most of what you do is tracked. That means, when you use a search website—and this can include many other kinds of websites—they know where you are from, your IP (Internet protocol) address, and therefore what you are interested in. Some websites can track you when you leave. 

Here is a helpful phrase worth remembering. Beware what you share! What are you sharing, where are you sharing it, and who are you sharing it with? This includes both directly and indirectly.

With social media, you are supplying huge amounts of information with everything you add. You can even be giving away information about, and connections to, your friends. Everything you do in the online world has the potential of leaving your footprints so the Technojungle can learn a lot more about you. You lead them to other people with potentially similar interests and therefore, those humans are worth something to marketers. Are you starting to feel like cattle on a ranch, or an animal on a farm? Marketers might just be the farmers of the Technojungle.

Are we like cattle being sucked into some sort of Technojungle ranch?

So advertisers with a product or service to sell used to use mass marketing campaigns by billboard, radio or TV and hope that someone who might be interested in their product or service will see or hear their advertisement. Now, thanks to the Technojungle, they can narrow down and target advertising to those who would be most likely to buy their product or service. How does this happen? Your personal information gets sold to advertisers who become the real customers of these online Internet Technojungle services. They do this by linking you to their advertising. 

Does all this make you want to pull the plug immediately? You have already left a huge footprint of yourself in the Technojungle. Can you think about some of the information you have contributed to your footprint? Now realize that there is even more that you don’t know you have contributed also out there somewhere It’s out there forever. From personal information to photographs of you, you will live on forever in the Internet abyss. Could this be immortality through the Technojungle? Have you heard of data mining? Your information, along with your attention, are the new gold and oil. The Technojungle world can have some hidden twists that are difficult to recognize.

How does this online Technojungle advertising work? In traditional advertising, an advertiser places an ad in some form of media, let’s say TV. Every time the ad is run, the advertiser pays and hopes that potential customers saw the ad. With Internet advertising schemes, an ad gets placed and the provider of the Technojungle service, such as a search service, uses information it has gathered to marry the ad to users who match the demographic of the product or service being marketed. This becomes highly targeted marketing.

Have you ever searched in the Technojungle for information about a product or service only to find later, you keep seeing ads for related products or services showing up on various websites you visit? They seem to be following you around. Now comes the final part of the advertising scheme. When you click on an ad page, the provider of the product or service you are using, in this case a search service, gets paid. It then becomes their goal to manipulate you to get as much information out of you as possible, so you will be more likely to click on a particular ad with which they target you. How can this be humanizing?

Have you decided that you don’t mind putting yourself, a fragile human, out there in the Technojungle as you safari? Do you feel that protecting yourself, or avoiding these kinds of scenarios, is too difficult? Are you just out there enjoying all the conveniences and the capabilities you get from the Technojungle services without much thought or care? Do you believe they make you feel human? Certainly protecting yourself does slow things down and restricts some of what you can do. This is life in the future. The new world of the Technojungle has much to offer and plenty for free, so why should you care? Why worry when you can’t do much to control it? There seems to be plenty of baggage here.

The true implications of that which seems to be free are definitely not understood. What do you think are some implications of having and using that which seems to be free? Can we have anything for free and still have our freedom? What could freedom look like in the future of the Technojungle? Are you free to do as you wish? Do you feel freedom in your life? Or, do you feel enslaved in some way, or to some degree, to the Technojungle?

Which of the concerns mentioned in this chapter are important to you? Can you take a look at your human life in the Technojungle and try to determine, with open eyes and mind, how humanized or dehumanized you may be at times, or in certain situations? Free products and services may not necessarily lead to freedom. You do pay somewhere, somehow. You become a product in the corporate machines of the Technojungle. Perhaps that is the fate of humanity. I don’t think life lies somewhere down that path. This is what I want you to think about as you safari forth into the Technojungle of the future with all its unexpected surprises and baggage. Strive to learn about being a better human being and living in this technology dominated world—the Technojungle.

If we want to be free, we need to think about how we pay for that which seems to come to us as free to use. If part of our payment is our personal information that gets used by corporations in various ways, shouldn’t we be wary of just how it used? These days we need also be wary of what we believe is real. What we see, hear, touch, smell, taste, can all be faked or altered to be unreal.


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