Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

FC: Privacy advocates complain about giveaway of fre

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Mon, 08 Feb 1999 08:15:11 -0500
From:          Declan McCullagh <>
Subject:       FC: Privacy advocates complain about giveaway of free computers

[Privacy groups have already begun (predictably) to complain. It seems
to me that betrays a misunderstanding of economics: There ain't no
such thing as a free lunch. From the complaints below, it seems like
they'd rather have people offline and uninformed than given a chance
to weigh the costs and benefits and make that decision for themselves.


Los Angeles Times
Page A1

By Karen Kaplan
Times Staff Writer

Personal computers have become so mainstream that it was only a matter
of time before companies would offer to give them away like so many
cellular phones or Thanksgiving turkeys.

That day is today.

A Pasadena firm is set to announce that it will hand out 10,000 free
Compaq computers--and hopes that demand will warrant eventual
distribution of up to 1 million PCs.

What's the catch?

The recipients will be asked to pay what many would consider an
unsettling price: personal privacy. is offering computers to people who are willing to share
their age, income, hobbies and other personal details that advertisers
covet. In exchange for the free computer, recipients must agree to let
the company monitor how they use it--including what they buy and where
they go on the World Wide Web.

"They're offering a Faustian bargain here," said Evan Hendricks, a
privacy advocate and editor of the newsletter Privacy Times. "Everyone
has to decide for themselves what's more important: a free computer,
or what people learn about their lives from that computer."


"You may come down with a serious medical problem and visit chat rooms
and Web sites where you seek support," said Beth Givens, director of
the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. "Do you want that
information ever getting into the hands of an insurance company or an


************ Hopes It Has Got a Deal You Won't Refuse

By Don Clark
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

A California company plans to distribute free computers to people who
agree to share personal data about themselves and be exposed to
Internet advertising., a closely held start-up founded by investor Bill Gross,
plans to give away sub-$1,000 PCs that are manufactured by Compaq
Computer Corp. and come with free Internet service. Consumers must
agree to use them at least 10 hours a month and allow the machine to
download advertising that is displayed in a strip on the right side of
its screen.


---- POLITECH -- the moderated mailing list of politics and technology
To subscribe: send a message to with this
text: subscribe politech More information is at