Should we be paid to see ads?

I’d like to talk about a comment that someone made in class on Friday following our discussion about consumer data collection. To be completely honest, I have no idea who made the comment; I just know that it was made towards the end of class and that I didn’t have time to respond.

In the midst of a discussion about consumers’ data being collected and sold to marketing companies, Dr. Sample reminded us that for each click an advertisement receives, the website hosting the advertisement makes a small amount of money. Someone mentioned that since advertising revenues are determined in part by the number of clicks an ad receives, it should follow that consumers themselves should get paid a sum to have their data collected and used for such purposes. I disagree with this notion and find it a bit preposterous.

Consumers are provided with the internet for free (besides hardware and connection costs). All of the knowledge that humanity has are at our fingertips, just seconds away via Google. In addition, an entirely new way of communicating was invented by companies such as Facebook and Twitter. Amazingly, all of these services are completely free to use, decades after their invention. If Facebook wanted, they could charge a monthly fee to members. The same goes for Google and other companies. These businesses make a great deal of money off advertising, so to pay consumers for viewing ads is a cop-out. Consumers already get free access to these sites; what more do we want? If viewing a few ads on every webpage is the price to pay for unlimited, instant knowledge of every topic imaginable (in addition to worldwide communication), then that is a STEAL. There are some companies that pay you to watch ads or take surveys. The below screenshot is from Wordlinx, accompany that pays you to share links with friends and watch ads. They are essentially paying you for your data, so there must be some economic justification for doing so.

This discussion reminds me a bit of the reading in FEED. Violet mentions that her family was too poor to give her a FEED when she was born, so instead she got one when she was seven. From my perspective, it seems as though a plurality (if not a majority) of the FEED is purely advertising. Again, this begs the question of whether the internet should be free. Maybe Violet and Titus should get paid for listening to upcar ads. Because the price of getting a FEED is so steep, why are there ads? Is there a premium version of FEED without ads?

I personally like having ads tailored to my interests; I would rather see ads about phone cases, shoes and swim gear than about community college or auto parts. That being said, a father discovered his daughter was pregnant through Target ads in his email. Where do we draw the line?

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