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How can internet companies afford to provide services like email for free? Well, it turns out they;re making a big profit doing it, and you are paying. In fact, you’re the product.

Recent privacy policy changes at Google show how lucrative a service like Gmail can be. Here’s how it works. For a couple of months now, G-mail has been sending you ads, or attaching them to your inbox display. You can opt out of some of the ads, but not all of them. The ads you see depend on what your emails are about. I got an email from my flying school, along with an ad for Etihad Airlines. Somewhere in the heart of the Google system, something is reading your email and sending you ads based on what you write.

You may not remember agreeing to this arrangement when you signed up for Gmail, but it was in there somewhere when you clicked “yes” to the user agreement. But do you want to receive ads in your private email?

Are you comfortable with the service provider scanning your messages for key words that appeal to its advertiser clients? You are “paying” for your “free” email with your private data. This is how a lot of the social media, photo sharing and message services work. They offer you a free service, paid for by offering advertisers the benefit of your attention,  and information about you.

It’s called data mining. Should you be concerned? What can you do about it? Are there alternatives to Gmail? Click on the audio player to hear Cairns I-T expert Rob Rutten answer these questions.




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