I posted a comment about the new Gmail interface on a social media site. One responder said, “you get what you pay for. Gmail is free.”

Reading that, I realized that the “Google is free” argument used to work for me, but it no longer does. Google apps are not free at all. You’re paying in the currency of giving them complete access to everything you work on, so they can analyze it and target ads. If someone were to make that explicit and ask me, “How much would you charge to give someone the right to scour every email you send and receive and every document you compose so they can build a profile on you for targetting ads?” I would name a figure far, far, FAR in excess of what I’ve paid for desktop software in my lifetime. In terms of my own value system, I’m only now realizing that Google Apps may be the most expensive software I’ve ever used.

What do you think? What would you charge to give someone the right to analyze all your email and documents to build a profile of you? What would you expect in return?

Google apps are free. Not!

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