Online privacy and the way your information is being shared by services you use seems to be a major issue lately and while many services have for years used the information you provide to them and use through their services to monetise the platform it seems that because of the mishandling of information and how freely facebook allowed companies to obtain this information through groups on their network the entire internet has been shook up to start being more open with how they hold and use the information they have on you to ensure that you are happy with the way that it is being used.

What began as a series of emails from every company under the sun who have ever had access to my email from ones that I know to ones that I don’t has now turned into an actual privacy checkup from my email provider itself and what I discovered during that privacy checkup was rather concerning with what they do with the information you send through any email and how they gather information about you from the content of your emails and where you send them along with the sheer number of companies both ISA approved and not that they sell this information onto in order to provide targeted advertising and emails direct into your inbox (or spam box)

This lead me to wonder what happens if everyone decides they no longer wish for their information to be shared in this way, would this perhaps make these services unaffordable after all these companies aren’t providing these “free” services out of the goodness of their hearts or any greater act of benevolence, but they are essential services in every aspect of our modern online world and if you have been using a particular service for years you might have linked it to so many of your other online accounts that it becomes invaluable and part of your online identity which you could never afford to lose.

What would you do if you were forced to make a decision between having to pay to keep this essential service or if it was to go offline? I have in the past used a service much greater than facebook before this ever existed which was part of my social online nature eventually renamed to profilenation after it was sued by some other site for using the term “face” in it’s name by a lesser website ironically not even facebook. This service eventually hit monetisation problems when adsense alone couldn’t pay for it’s growing popularity as it was a pioneer in the social networking sector having fully customisable profiles, including the facebook wall before this was ever a thing as well as bulletin board threads which became a big social part of my youth. It was adopted by the alternative youth and social groups I corresponded more with and as a result I felt like I connected more with people there than the countryside I grew up where most people had low intelligence and were criminals and thugs or snobby and rich and wouldn’t associate with me for my lower upbringing so I felt detached and made real friendships and even a relationship with a girl I ended up moving in with from this site.

Towards the end of it’s life profilenation started posting requests to donate due to monetary problems (obviously they never sold off your personal information and resorted only to advertising and eventually attempts to sell increased profile privileges in an attempt to pay for rising hosting costs to cover the traffic) I didn’t believe such a large and popular site could have problems with money and didn’t believe it was ever going to close, and thought “I’m sure they’ll just find cheaper services if necessary” however after a while the site did close down because it was unaffordable as a business to run, and it stands as an example of how anything you use online could eventually vanish. Of course the site eventually returned, a little too late considering facebook is now the primary social site and so feature heavy people are unlikely to revert to a site like this, but had it not closed I believe it could have been bigger than facebook, in fact when I first heard of facebook I suspected it was a return and rebrand of the site due to the fact you had a commentable wall (where on profilenation most profiles had someone comment “first” on their wall as their first post much like youtube video’s today because it was so common on the site for people wanting to be the first comment on a new profile)

Imagine how many services you have linked to your primary email, what happens if your free email service can no longer afford to be run? You might question that this will never ever happen but yahoo have literally just sold their services to oath, and Verizon bought yahoo in 2016. While there might be providers willing to purchase the email services at present if it becomes truly unaffordable without the ability to monetise through selling your personal information these services might eventually be forced into a choice between having to provide your information for sale, purchasing your email services for a monthly fee or having to close down entirely.

What would you do if your email services were forced to close? How many services would you have to update contact details with? How many emails do you have stored that you would permanently lose access to? How would you cope if you lost your primary contact email? I don’t think these are questions anyone ever wants to ask themselves let alone answer, but in a world where privacy is becoming more of a concern you may have to start wondering how much would you be willing to pay for your email services if you were forced to pay for them to keep them online?

You might think there are other options such as hosting an email service yourself but believe me this can be more hassle than it is worth especially when it comes to filtering out generic spam emails sent via a robot to every single permutation of an email and web domain under the sun until it gets a ping, and finding your actual emails amongst all of this can be rather difficult which is why using an established provider tends to be the most popular option rather than using your own domain and it’s why I use a generic provider rather than using my own domain.

With the privacy shakeup as well you might want to check out what information you share with your viewing preferences as services like facebook and google have integrated themselves so far into your browsers that you are always getting “targeted advertising” based upon your viewing history and often tries to get you to purchase an item off amazon or ebay you’ve viewed in the past whether you’ve decided to purchase it or decided I never want to buy that item it will always go hey you looked at this, let us advertise things you’ve already seen rather than anything new you might be interested in but have never heard of which is why I find targeted advertising particularly disgusting as it’s primary purpose is to show off ever website under the sun you’ve browsed and go hey we know you were looking at this.

Consider every site with adsense and every site with a facebook like button, those tendrils are all over the web tracking everywhere you’ve been, and that’s before the cookies advertising services plant anywhere else online and once you take these into account it’s all too clear how much of your browsing data these companies are tracking and that’s before you even consider that using google chrome allows it to see every single thing you look at ever and target advertising around that towards you.

There is an option to disable tracking, however using this service isn’t perfect as most sites will simply turn targeted advertising back on whether you want it or not just by visiting them, and that’s a bad thing because I am happy to get advertising and I always found the non targeted advertising to be far more interesting and perfect for me than targeted advertising ever is, you had more variety of adverts and were more likely to see something new that caught your eye and made you consider a visit to a site, however targeted advertising leads to non stop amazon and ebay “you looked at this” style adverts and 6 kfc adverts in a row on twitch, and other stupid repeats of adverts you clearly have no actual interest in but it’s targeted because of something you’ve visited or expressed a vocal mention of or seen a mention of from your friends.

As a result I would like to disable targeted advertising and just have generic advertising because this works better for me, I see more interesting adverts and I’m of course happy for these sites to monetise their services through advertising and I actually think they’re more effective at advertising something to me when it isn’t something I’ve already seen or expressed some vocal mention of because these things aren’t something I need advertised to me, where as some new wonder product or service I’ve never heard of might be something I’d have an interest in and might be interested in clicking on. I’ve never been one to be interested in repeats and I know it’s a thing in many regular peoples lives that repetition creates a closer connection and brands think if they’re engrained into their thoughts enough people are more likely to feel close to them and buy them but that doesn’t work with me and if you’re constantly in my face I’m actually more likely to be turned off.

So the world is becoming more careful with how it handles your private information and they are trying to ensure they only do what you wish with it, but you must consider the other side of the coin and how if you refuse to allow this information these services might become unaffordable and you might have to look elsewhere or start paying for these services, and this could lead to big changes in the online world so at what cost will having control over your private information hold in the end? That’s a question for another day

Check your online advertising preferences yourself at http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/your-ad-choices