You’re the Product, Not the Customer

When I go into a department store to check out a sport coat, get a new tie, or a new pair of jeans, whatever product I end up getting makes me their customer. If I buy a pair of Lee jeans from Kohl’s I am a Kohl’s customer and I am a Lee customer. I have made a small investment in those two companies.

If I go to a Subaru dealership and buy a nice little hatchback, that makes me a Subaru customer. I get the warranty, the oil changes, all that jazz.

It’s a very simple concept – if you buy something made by a company, you become that company’s customer. When you wear Lee jeans or drive your Subaru, people will see that you are a customer of that company.

So we could naturally say that about internet sites and services, correct? Like Facebook. Because I use Facebook, I am Facebook’s customer. They have my best interests at heart. Right?

Wrong.

See, the conventional idea is that if you use a product or a service, that makes you a customer of that product or service. With the internet, that’s just not necessarily true.

I use Facebook as a scapegoat because they are, put simply, the worst. If you are on Facebook, you are not Facebook’s customer. You are their product.

They are selling your data (things you click on, like, what you view, etc.) to other companies for them to sell things to you. We may think that we are the customers, but in truth, we are just the products.

Facebook generates billions in revenue based upon selling your clicks and likes. Most of this is harmless. How many times have you looked at a gift for your wife and then seen ads for purses on Facebook for the next month? Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have made entire businesses on your data.

Not to sound dreary, but if you have spent any time on the internet, data companies have a complete picture of you and what you like, what you buy, and what you post.

So as a digital parent, we need to make this known to our kids. Our kids don’t understand it when you’re using a quote unquote free service that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for it, and what we may not realize is That we are the ones paying for it – with our data.

When it comes to all of this, your kids need to know two words: discernment and restraint. Adults need to know these two words as well, but kids more so. Because kids will click on anything, like anything, and sometimes post anything. They need to be aware of how much they’re being watched, as we all do.

This was not written to shock you, but to inform you. These companies are watching you and your children, and you don’t want them to become unknowing targets.

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Chad Landman is the youth minister for the Church Street Church of Christ in Lewisburg, Tennessee where he has served for four years. He and his wife Bonnie have two boys—Jacob and David. Chad writes about technology and Christianity on his website at chadl.co, and talks to other ministers and youth ministers about technology on his podcast called Ministry Bits. He speaks frequently at area churches using his Active Digital Parenting curriculum, now a weekly blog at Start2Finish.org.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Robbie Mackenzie February 24, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Well said friend. I am proud of you!

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