Tech

The Modest Origins Of “You Are Their Product”

The best line in Al Franken’s fiery Facebook speech wasn’t exactly his. The “you’re not the customer, you’re the product” movement can be traced back to an anonymous comment on a blog.

“[A]ccumulating data about you isn’t just a strange hobby for these corporations. It’s their whole business model,” said/yelled Al Franken during a speech given to members of the American Bar Association. “And you are not their client. You are their product.”

The quote rightly caught fire online; it’s a variation on an idea that’s animated the anti-Facebook, anti-Google crowd for years. Its first formulation didn’t come from a Clay Shirky or a Jaron Lanier. It most probably came from a Metafilter user who goes by the handle “blue_beetle.”

So, credit where credit’s due! Though I have to admit I’m a little sad that one of this decade’s most important technological ideas originated in a comment thread about the Digg redesign.

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