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The end of the free Internet

Most people's relationship with the Internet has moved out of the honeymoon phase. We can't stop gazing lovingly into the eyes of an endless number of cute animals without wondering who is profiting off of my enjoyment of animal pictures.

And with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claiming recently that privacy is "no longer a social norm," who can doubt that a large percentage of the Internet is a dressed-up market research playground?

You may have already seen my coverage of both Facebook and OKCupid's large-scale experimentation on their users. Both research programs were totally acceptable according to each service's terms of service, but I couldn't help but feel slimy after I heard the news.

Vengeance: Hacked girl who had illicit pictures leaked online gets $123 million in damages.

Here's the problem: The Internet has always been free. Free entertainment on a massive scale means that the only way to make money is through research, advertising and other roundabout ways of doing business.

The fact that they were directly experimenting on humans made a lot of people angry, but chances are good that this is the only time that they've actually gotten caught.

Information is power, though, and that's what you're trading whenever you enjoy most "free" content on the Internet. Entering your name, email and ZIP code might start feeling automatic after spending a lifetime on the Internet.

My question is this: Would you be willing to pay Facebook or a similar social networking site to keep your information private? Is the only way to be "free" from the Internet to outsmart the marketers by paying money? I'm very interested to hear what you have to say.

The guy who invented the pop-up ad is so, so sorry
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The guy who invented the pop-up ad is so, so sorry

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