I received an offer from my internet provider to receive a free year of a new streaming service. I would have just deleted the pitch but something caught my eye: no payment information is required and the subscription will expire after a year unless I renew it. What a refreshing twist — normally, you have to wait on hold and hassle with an automated message to cancel anything.

I appreciated the automatic cancellation and it enticed me to sign up. The registration asked which streaming services I already have (“so it can tailor my preferences”) and it is available to link to my computer, television, or tablet. In other words, so they can monitor and track all of my entertainment viewing as they mine data to strengthen their own market position. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a free streaming service for a year. I know the company is trading its content in exchange for my data.

Be judicious in what “free” things you accept and keep the ulterior motives in mind as you share information and link to your platforms. As Richard Serra reminds us: “If something is free, YOU are the product.”

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