In an interesting article in The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal explains what happens when you visit a website: what are all those cookies doing exactly? "I'm Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web" reveals all, though I couldn't get the Collusion tool it mentions to work.
I attended a fascinating talk by Jaron Lanier a couple of years ago, in which he argued that as we're giving companies loads of data about us all the time – data which they use to make money – then we should be paid for it. As Andrew Lewis said (quoted on www.collusion.toolness.org):
"If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer, you're the product being sold."
Or, as the economist George Stigler put it:
"There's no such thing as a free lunch"
Back to Janier. He wrote a book about it called "Who owns the future". Click on the link to buy it, thereby helping to deposit some pennies into my meagre coffers (it's an Amazon affiliate link). Mind you, I am not recommending it exactly because I haven't finished reading it yet. Very interesting so far though.
This article first appeared in the Digital Education newsletter.