Privacy in the digital and physical world

By Greg Fincke, Managing Director, Equiteq

It’s been widely reported that Yahoo and AOL, both owned by Verizon’s business unit Oath, are reading users’ emails to more effectively target advertising.

The WSJ moves beyond the headline issue of privacy and into the privacy trade-off users make with their free email providers. There is an interesting connection here to the concept of “razors” and “blades”, discussed in a previous post.  Email could be seen as the razor to Oath’s blade, i.e. how they make money, online advertising. Trying to monetize their “expensive” razor is proving tricky. At the very least it has generated plenty of media attention regarding privacy concerns.

The WSJ article references Yahoo’s ad-free email service for $3.49/month. There have been attempts at pay-for privacy social media platforms in the past. It is interesting to think about the digital assets available to consumers and the price of privacy. My sense is most of us have always thought of online ad targeting as benign. But as we shift more of our lives to the digital world, learn more about how our data is being used (sometimes after the fact), and start questioning where the boundaries are it begs the question: is there a future for digital pay-for privacy?

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