Something for Nothing: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Spam Text Messages

spamToday’s lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of items related to getting something for nothing… or at least not realizing the cost…

  • Instagram. The impetus for today’s post is the current furor over the announced change in Instagram’s terms and conditions. Basically, the change permits Instagram, now a Facebook company, to let companies pay to use your photos as well as your name and other information for ads that would be displayed within Instagram. Everyone is up in arms about this, but they are forgetting one thing. Instagram is a free service. But TANSTAAFL. Instagram has to pay its bills. Remember: If you aren’t paying anything, then you aren’t the customer — you are what is being sold. In this case, Instagram — which is a private business — is selling the information you freely give it in exchange for providing a service. You don’t like it? Leave and go to another service. But if you go to another free service, remember they will just be selling you, just in another form. (Update: Instagram appears to be withdrawing the policy, although it is important to remember they are under no obligation to do so)
  • Facebook. Similarly, there was a recent furor about Facebook’s changing its privacy rules. Facebook eliminated the ability to vote on future changes. As with Instagram, remember that Facebook is a private company. They have no obligation to obtain user input on privacy changes at all. They do so to pacify those providing information to Facebook freely. Don’t like it — they only way to address it is to either completely delete your account, or government intervention. The nature of Facebook makes deleting your account hard to do, because all your friends are there and that is where they are posting. This makes Facebook very sticky. It is also also important to remember that Facebook provides its service for free. As with Instagram, ask yourself: who is Facebook’s customer? The answer is, of course, the advertisers to whom they are selling your information.
  • Twitter. It is not just Facebook that is selling your information. It was recently reported that Twitter has partnered with Nielsen to mine information to report the social TV audience. In other words, Twitter will be monitoring tweets to observe discussions related to TV programs and will be selling those statistics to Nielsen. Remember, Twitter is a free service for those tweeting. But there are costs, and they must be paid for somehow. This is how. Now look at this in light of the other news: Nielsen is purchasing Arbitron. This means Nielsen will be doing both TV and Radio ratings. Expect Twitter to start mining radio statistics as well.
  • Data Brokers. Related to this is an interesting article about the FTC going after data brokers. These are the companies that collect all sorts of personal data without your knowledge. The FTC said it plans to use the information it collects to study the industry’s privacy practices. The nine data brokers are Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, EBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, Peekyou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future. The FTC wants to know what the brokers do with the information. It also wants to know if the data brokers let consumers review and correct their personal information or opt out from having their personal information sold. One wonders if Facebook or Twitter is selling information to these brokers…
  • Best Buy Reward Certificates. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve received a number of text messages that I’ve won a $1000 Best Buy Reward Certificate, and directing me to a non-Best Buy website. I’ve been suspicious of these, and decided to look it up. Yes, it is a scam. More importantly, I’ve learned that (at least on Verizon Wireless) you can forward Spam texts to  SPAM (7726) to report them. Other carriers, supposedly, do similar. Remember, it is unlikely that you’ll win anything if you never put in a form; be suspicious of such text messages.