You Are The Product

Why is it that Ben and Jerry’s in Pittsford went out of business due to lack of customers, but on Free Cone Day there were hundreds and hundreds of customers waiting in line to get a ice cream cone. Because people love free things. It is no surprise that the Grammy winning band Radiohead’s most successful commercial album was released for fans to name their price online, ranging from nothing to $20 (Anderson 114). Why was it their most successful album? Because it was essentially free. Knowing these two pieces of information, one could guess that if given the option to chose between using a free service and a paid service, users would most likely chose the free option. Google provides its users with free services such as search engines, maps, Youtube videos, and more.  The idea that “if you are not paying for the product, then you are the product” is true for Google’s users because Google turns their users into products to sell to advertisers.

Gaining something without losing money is an act that our society thrives upon. However, there can be negative impacts to the idea of free. While utilizing a free service people need to take in to consideration that free of monetary value does not mean free of consequences. Companies like Google offer many free services to the public. The thrill of using a service without having to pay for it could blind some to the hidden agenda’s of these companies. People often don’t care as much about things they don’t pay for, and as a result they don’t think about how they consume them (Anderson 52). Google does not provide its services out of the kindness of its heart, they provide them because they make money from them. Google generates its income from its advertising. “Advertising is its main source of income, boasting $38 billion every year” (Goodson). Advertisers pay big bucks in order to be seen on Google because such a large population use Google daily. Google tracks its users searches and data and supplies its advertisers with this information in order to sell advertisements (Miller and Vindu). As users, we are the product to Google. We are what Google is truly selling in order to make a profit. Google is not making its billions of dollars from selling their services, they are making their money from selling their users. This can be a negative consequence to users who do not want their personal information and searches tracked. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it, so we either have to avoid Google or deal with the facts.

 [This video explains Googles Privacy Policy and how its works by selling its users information to advertisers] 

On the contrary, some users find the partnership between Google and its advertisers to be positive. The advertisers adjust their advertisements to meet the users information provided by Google. “Google can deliver a product to advertisers tailored to their exact needs” (Newman). This means that a male who searches for things like the Buffalo Bills and Metallica could be shown advertisements about ticket sales. His advertisements could be very different from his neighbors, who frequently googles Kim Kardashian. Her personalized advertisements could be shown the store Lipsy that sells the Kardashian clothing line. There is a large community of people who find the personalization of advertisements to be useful. An economic blogger with a large following, Liz Gannes, says that this relationship can teach us about ourselves. Gannes says Google “analyzes our habits so we can know more about ourselves and learn” (Maybe Being the Product Isn’t So Bad). Gannes, her followers, and people who agree with this believe that Google makes it easier to find what we are looking for. As long as they can obtain what they need to, they are okay with Google selling our information to companies and advertisers.

How Google Ad’s Appear [In this video Google explains how they generate ad’s tailored to our needs found from our search engine results]

People may feel inclined to continue using Google’s services even though they are aware of their privacy policies because of the quality and price of its services. For being free, Google offers efficient and high quality search engine results. Googles privacy policies have been headlines in the news for a long time now. Most people are aware of their policies but continue to use their services. Google is the most used search engine (UC Berkeley Library). The refusal to switch to another search engine domain serves to show how users truly are the product. Users are aware they are the product being sold by Google, but continue to use its services anyways. Scott Goodson in his article If You’re Not Paying For It, You Become the Product says that “next time you’re browsing the web or enjoying a video on Youtube, remember that Google is watching your every move; because that’s the price you pay”. We are not paying cash for Google but we are paying the price of providing them with our personal information. We are paying the price of knowing we are the product that makes Google money, not their services.

google   [Google has its users chained to them. Thats the price they pay]

The statement “If You’re Not Paying For It, You Are The Product” is accurate for those who use Google’s services. Anytime something is searched on Google or Youtube, it is traced and sent out to advertisers. Google sells its users to advertisers in order to make money because their services are free and therefore they can not make money off of their services. In our economy today big companies are mostly concerned with making money. Google, the most used search engine, is one of the largest companies in the world. Of course they are going to do what they need to do in order to make a profit. Some people are appalled and up-roared about Googles policies, while others don’t care as long as they can remain to get the same great quality service. The decision is ultimately up to you. Do you mind being a product?


Anderson, Chris. Free, The Future of a Radical Price. 1st ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Archive. Community Books, 7 July 2009. Web.

Goodson, Scott. “If You’re Not Paying For It, You Become The Product.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 05 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2014

Newman, Nathan. “You’re Not Google’s Customer — You’re the Product: Antitrust in a Web 2.0 World.” The Huffington Post., 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2014

Gannes, Liz. “Maybe “Being the Product” Isn’t So Bad: Why Data Harvesting Doesn’t Have to Be a Nightmare.” AllThingsD. Dow Jones & Company Inc, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.

Miller, Claire Cain, and Vindu Goel. “Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Oct. 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2014.

“Recommended Search Engines-The Library-University of California, Berkeley.” Recommended Search Engines-The Library-University of California, Berkeley. University of California Berkeley, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.


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