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By Editorial staff

Journalist


The machines have already won

The hidden cost of seemingly free digital platforms and the exploitation of user data by tech giants.


As we boldly go where humanity has not gone before, into the digital universe, remember that “if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product…”

That free e-mail programme you use to do all communications with: Facebook, X, Instagram that give you hours of free association with your friends are not innocent digital helpers.… Your data is being harvested by them.

Information they glean from you on even your most personal habits, even your health, is sold, without any compunction, to advertisers.

But the clevers at Google have gone even further, by playing on the vanities and the community-mindedness of millions of people around the world who volunteer as “local guides” on its mapping app.

ALSO READ: South Africa’s schools ‘lag in digital use’ – study

They help to rate restaurants, advise people on places to visit, even routes to take and where to get bargains.

All of this, as our writer Kathryn Kure – herself a Google local guide – tells us today, for a reward system little different from that you might see in a primary school.

Stars and little achievement badges work with adults as well as they do as an incentive for kids.

And it’s addictive… guides keep coming back for more slavery. The machines have already won.

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