I’m very comfortable with the amount of relatively generic information I share on the internet being my access price to surfing the world of information for free. I believe I get more than my money’s worth. And if you don’t like it, there’s always Encyclopaedica Brittanica waiting for you on the shelf.

There was a fascinating story on NPR’s All Things Considered tonight. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130349989

The gist of the story was how tracking of your personal behavior is shaping the way that advertisers get products in front of you when you surf the web. For the casual observer, this prompts a fist-shaking rant about Big Brother watching us at every turn.

But I protest; it was ever thus. Traditional broadcasters (Radio, TV) have sold your information to advertisers for years. In fact, it’s sold twice. When ratings organizations like Nielsen or Arbitron gather up data about who is watching or listening, and when, they sell that information to broadcasters. Broadcasters in turn take that information and sell it to advertisers.

Google, Yahoo and the late-comer to the process, Bing, are simply speeding up the process and greatly improving the depth of information available. You can see it as a service that you can ignore, and circumvent to a certain extent by clearing your cache and cookies regularly, or one that might help you find that special something you have been surfing for but couldn’t find.

Sure, I’m a bit biased in this debate, because www.cameronknowles.com is in business to help people get their message out in part through marketing and advertising. But the big picture people forget about in this scenerio is what the side benefit is to all of this selling of your data: You get to use Google for free! I’ll say it again: Google having access to your search patterns and selling that information gives you the use of their product for free.

Talk to anyone who had to use a ‘Graphical User Interface’ to search databases before the advent of the web. Services like LexisNexis approximated what Google, Yahoo and Bing do now, for a subscription fee, and on a much more limited set of data. Today, the world is at your fingertips, but someone has to pay. That payment is your search patterns, and the advertisers access to it.