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Jul 09

You Are The Product

Mark Cuban (http://twitter.com/mcuban) re-tweeted something interesting:  From wjousts” “You are not the customer of companies like Google or Facebook. You are the product. The advertisers are the customers.”

This statement is so obvious, yet I had I always thought that Google/Facebook (G/FB) would eventually up sell users from the free basic service to premium features, as LinkedIn or TripIt have.  I know that my personal information and behavioral history is used for advertising, but I did not think that would be the entire business.  (Of course, Google is trying to expand but is not there yet.)

I am certainly not begrudging G/FB their right to use the data for profit and not arguing for ridiculous privacy policies.  I benefit by using their services that are pretty good and free, so there is value being exchanged.  The question is how much value?  G/FB are presumably valuing the services they provide and the data they receive and, while the exchange is not perfect, at least they are spending the effort to understand it.

Eventually G/FB can exploit that understanding, because they know the value a lot more than the consumers do.  For example, Google knows that I fly United because I get my confirmations in Gmail: How much would American Airlines pay for that information?  Can I get a cut of that?  How will I as a normal consumer know my value?  Is there a consumer tool to tell me how much I am worth to G/FB?

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