The old adage “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” is tossed around when discussing economics, but in the light of the Google Buzz FTC complaint filed a few weeks ago by EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), there are a lot of parallels in the web landscape as well.

Now that we’ve used most of the web’s services for FREE for the past few decades, we’ve become quite accustomed to accessing content and services just by creating a “free” account and moving on without any regard to the trade-offs. If you stop and think about it, what does it cost you (non-monetarily) to use Facebook? I mean, besides the incredible timesink. I’m not talking about the physical activity of using the web versus working out, or checking your Facebook page instead of taking your dog to the park. I’m talking about the trade-off that occurs when your personal information starts mingling with technology that you’re not paying for directly. People, businesses, groups and causes you’re connected with, your activities, comments and “check-ins” all weave an intricate, yet telling digital footprint. Your footprint equals dollar signs for these businesses, since they can sell your attention at a premium to advertisers.

You don’t think web entrepreneurs without a “pay for use” business model are providing you with a service out of the goodness of their hearts, right?

While I’m not accepting Facebook’s shady privacy games or Google pushing your “most emailed” contact list into the social media sphere, there has to be a point where we, as web consumers, understand the opportunity cost of using the web.