The Hot New Trend in Silicon Valley is, apparently, called “onboarding” and, in a nutshell, it’s about large vendor and social media sites trading and selling personal data–that is, your personal data–to each other to make it easier to follow you around, both online and off.

This isn’t just things like names and what restaurants you like to go to or what things you buy on Amazon. It’s the aggregate of all of those things, and the point is that aggregation is leading to a kind of ghettofication of online content. Or, as the FTC’s Chairwoman Edith Ramirez puts it:

Will these classifications mean that some consumers will only be shown advertisements for subprime loans while others will see ads for credit cards? […] Will some be routinely shunted to inferior customer service?

Fun times.

It’s also worth pointing out at this juncture that these are US companies operating in ways that would be very likely illegal in jurisdiction like Australia and Europe, due to differences in privacy laws. And yet I guarantee you–despite the fact the article itself doesn’t mention it–that they will have data on non-US citizens as well.

Your personal information–things like your name and address, but also what sites you visit and things you buy–are valuable. Almost every business on the modern internet is designed to try and convince you they aren’t, all while trading them around behind your back.

That’s the true price of “free”. One most people don’t even realise they’re paying…