Human is an iPhone app (no affiliate link) that monitors movement. It tracks physical activity throughout the day with the objective of encouraging an active (and, thus, healthy) lifestyle. And it is free.
While we are eagerly tracking how many minutes we have walked or cycled, grateful for this boost to our health from a free app, the company behind the app is amassing the data. Through a process detailed here, the company produced and released visualisations of the activity of its users.
The visualisations are truly stunning. The visualisations are also a reminder that, when the product is free, we become the product.
2 thoughts on “The other side of free apps”
Interesting app, and a great illustration of how we need to redefine free. This app is not free. Users do not have to part with money, but they are using it in exchange for something else of value. We have forgotten about barter-trade, it seems. As long as there is no exchange of money, we believe things are ‘free’. But money is only a ‘signal’ for value. A tool to make exchange of valuable goods and services easier. There’s hardly an app available that is really free, meaning that you can use it without giving up something of value in exchange. Facebook isn’t free. Google isn’t. I think that is a very important factor in our connected world. Also in relation to regulation, especially around privacy concerns. People forget that by using Facebook or Gmail or whatever, they have agreed to ‘pay’ by giving up some of their privacy. It sometimes seems we want it all: using these valuable services without giving up anything that is of value to us. I’m afraid the world doesn’t work that way. That’s why I like Duolingo so much. They are very clear. You get to learn a language, and in exchange you help to improve machine translation software.
Thank you, Arjan. You are right: it is “barter-trade”. The problem is that one side is not really aware of the value of what they are giving away 😦