This is a reprint of The elusive "P" which appeared in the January 2016 issue of Indian Management.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, truly.
As we increasingly traverse the virtual realm, we are putting at stake a crucial aspect—our much-treasured privacy.
There is not a lot of privacy on the Internet today. Every place you go – websites, social networks, apps – all know your IP address and where you are located, which they can correlate with your demographics, age, gender, and the websites that you visit. Social networks can even tell advertisers what your political leanings are and which religion you practice, and the Internet knows which books you read, which cosmetics you use, and whether or not you are pregnant, getting married or divorced. At the end of the day, search engine companies and Internet Service Providers know everything about you. With the up-rise of the Internet of Things, Internet-connected devices can dig even deeper into our lives. Our cars remember when we drove where, how fast we went, and what music we were listening to, while our smart watch can tell us more about our health than our doctors can. Privacy is a thing of the past.
A trade-off between convenience and privacy
In our day-to-day usage of the Internet, each of us are either making a conscious or unconscious trade-off between convenience and privacy.
One example of this can be seen in Gmail, the hugely popular email service used by nearly one billion people around the world. Most people will, but others might not recognize that they receive advertisements which are somewhat related to the subject of their emails. This is due to the fact that the subjects of a user’s emails are sent to various advertising engines to come up with relevant content to serve back to the Gmail user. For someone who sent an email with ‘vacation’ in the subject line, this may result in the user receiving ads with flight offers during the following days.