Jaron Lanier: Why Facebook Isn't Free

Internet pioneer Jaron Lanier argues that free technologies like Facebook come with a hidden and heavy cost – the livelihoods of their consumers. 

What’s the Big Idea?  

Facebook shares start trading today, at a price that will value the company at close to $100 billion, or roughly the 2011 GDP of Sudan. The difference between this and other comparably enormous initial public offerings is that Facebook's product, or service, is free. Its business model is based on the value to advertisers of the rich data its users provide by sharing their changing interests and relationship networks in real time. 

The "big data" that Facebook and other networks gather is especially valuable because of its level of detail. It goes far deeper than registration demographics: geography, age, gender, education - enabling marketers to target you, the consumer, based on up-to-the moment details like your favorite music, what shoes you bought last week, or your shifting political opinions.  

Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer (widely credited with inventing the term 'virtual reality'), musician, author of You Are Not A Gadget, and vocal opponent of what he sees as the widespread social conformity and economic unsustainability of Web 2.0, sees a hidden cost in the "free" services of the social web. 

Video: Jaron Lanier wants to see new technologies creating jobs and wealth, rather than undermining them. 

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