Data — at any price

This post is opening a series of publications about messengers’ security – both imaginary and real. Let’s try to find out how protected our personal data is in both cases all the way from simple things to more complex ones.

It is not a secret that corporations are interested in getting our personal data. Let’s take a look at year 2017 when demand for users’ interests increased doubled as well as companies’ ex-penses for purchasing such information. Even an owner of a pizza place would love to know what kind of cheese you prefer: if you love mozzarella why would he use a more expensive parmesan?

Unlike a pizzeria where I can be directly asked about my preferences, companies do not waste their time getting to know and staying in touch with their clients. They either make us share our private information with them or get it in their own way, informing us about it only in some extent. And this is where we meet a tiny devil who, as one classic writer once said, is always in the details.

“Some extent” means fine print in a barely visible pop-up window with the a 120-page user agreement, or dozens of witty tricks marketers and analysts. These tricks have become so commonplace that we don’t notice them any longer. Information about us turns into mer-chandise sold by anyone but us.

One curious and not a very well-known fact speaks of how important can be the behaviour of a user. A few years ago the search engine Google excluded from its search results any mentions about a tiny startup Ad Nauseam which offered users to install a web browser ex-tension. The only function of this extension presented chaotic clicks on any ads popping up on any page. The idea didn’t seem to be sophisticated, but it was carrying a very much pal-pable threat make Google lose an opportunity to create a user’s image which could cause serious damage to the digital ad market. Google grasped it immediately and the service was proclaimed to be an outlaw.

Knowing our personal data is a big and profitable business. it is one side of the matter. Anoth-er side is that this knowledge is a tool to manipulate us. And we don’t really know which is worse. One thing can be said for sure: the user has a right to choose what to share and who with. And his choice must be as conscious as possible.

One can say for sure that human communication flows from social networks into messen-gers, but even on this way there are a couple of surprises expecting them. Thus annoying commercials and blunt Facebook spam in the ads’ disguise motivate its users to switch their conversations to Facebook Messenger. However, when one realizes that it does not save you from sellers one tends to migrate to WhatsApp. When this migration process gets to a threatening scale Mark Zuckerberg simply buys WhatsApp. For utterly astonishing $19 billion. That’s the price of the company with the annual sales revenue of $20 million!

At first sight the price of the transaction seems incredible but if we divide this number by 450 million (which is the number of people registered in WhatsApp at the date of the sale) then we will see that the price of every user’s personal data is just US$42.

Forty-two bucks for extensive data about you and your contact list – is it really the price of the information about your life?

Are you ready to share your data with companies and let them make money on you?

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