Thursday, May 04, 2006

Confusion about profits

profit, economics,
prejudice, commerce,
spyware, adware

Recently I've become involved in a project which involves publishing books on various topics. One of the books deals with adware and spyware, which is a hot topic of much concern these days to most everyone who has a computer connected to the internet.

One of the most frequent objections I noted to spyware/adware is that the intruding software collects data which may be private and confidential and that this may then be used by some unknown party to earn a profit!

What I find strange about this attitude is that it seems to imply that if the person using the information were not using it to make a profit it might not be sooo bad, perhaps even acceptable.

There is a prejudice rampant in the eyes of many people that equates profit with something evil. I cannot accept this and I don't believe that anybody who has ever thought about it very much would stick with that attitude. Yes, there may be greedy people who seek to make unreasonable profits, and there are too many people who seek to make profits using illegal, immoral or unethical means to do so, but that does not make profits, nor the wish to earn them bad.

In fact, if we look at the way history has developed, a very great amount of the progress which we have enjoyed over the time we have been civilized has beed due to people who have sought to make a profit by providing some kind of product or service which other people wanted, and the lure of profits was the incentive which gave many entrepreneurs the spark they needed to invent or provide new and better solutions to old problems.

Returning to the issue of adware/spyware, I agree that much of it is a menace today not because private information is used to make a profit but simply because it is used, without permission, and that it is gathered often without the awareness of the person who is being targeted using his own resources without agreement. The issue of profit is simply incidental.