The Worth of a Quarter
"A thousand rupees for just 4000 people?!" Amit yells over the phone, astonished.
"Sir, this data is legitimate, and we will replace the record in case there's any discrepancy. You won't find a better deal than this, I assure you!" the seller says from the phone's other end.
"I'll give seven-fifty, at most," the buyer negotiates.
"Eight-hundred, please, sir."
"Okay, I'll transfer the money to this number. Send me the data by this evening."
Amit sighs and rests back on his chair, simultaneously typing a message to his boss confirming the deal. In less than 25 paise per person, Amit bought the data of four-thousand people to promote the newest property his company is brokering.
He is aware. His promotion will just be another message or e-mail in an endless inbox. But what if a hundred people out of the four-thousand he just bought would read the message?
What if ten out of those try to buy a flat?
Maybe he'll get a promotion. Or just an increase in his salary. He needs it, especially when his pregnant wife has a new craving everyday. He stretches his body on the plastic chair he sits on and opens his laptop, ready to type an e-mail to his boss asking for an increase.
After a few minutes of intensive e-mail writing, his concentration breaks as a notification in his phone alerts him. He presses the power button and sighs as he reads the message: the promotion of yet another offer in a Mama's Pizzeria two cities away.
I am literally seventeen, how can I buy a flat?!
The question is, though, how does this scary-looking number have my contact?
Even my friends don't have my mail ID!
I open the e-mail, sent by someone called 'Sai Brokerage Firm'. I go through the text, which coaxes me to invest in a property miles away. I check it once again, and yeah, they sent the mail to me.
A seventeen-year-old kid.
How did they even get my mail-ID?
I lay back on the bed, going through all the times I provided my mail-ID to someone. Perhaps the form I filled to surf through fifteen more minutes of BuzzFeed. Or, the time I donated a hundred rupees to plant trees in Jammu. All this got me thinking, how many times did I just put my mail-ID out there? Giving away my inbox for someone to send a message to?
And I don't even know what happens to it. It's just floating in the world wide web; doesn't my privacy count for something? If Sai Brokerage received my email ID, they must have gotten it from someone. And how does that someone have it in the first place? Shouldn't the forms I fill have a non-disclosure policy?
"Mama!" I shout, walking into the kitchen.
"What, beta? Don't shout," she says kindly, wiping her hands off the apron and turning towards me.
"Look, I got this mail from someone to invest in a property!" I tell her, and she laughs, taking the phone in her hand.
"Sai Brokerage Firm, hmm?" she says to herself, and scrolls down. A smile rises up her face.
"This is a promotional email, they probably bought the data from someone to send mails to. I did it, too! I bought phone numbers to promote the new meal combos we introduced at a lower price. We need the business, beta, and if even five of the thousand people we sent the messages to visit our Pizzeria, we would earn a lot more money than I spent! I gave two hundred-fifty rupees for a thousand numbers!" she shares with me and laughs, a wide grin on her face.
"Oh," I say, speechless. I take the phone from her hands and walk out of the kitchen.
My mother bought people's data? For a quarter per person?
She's right. The pizza she sells for more than two-hundred would outweigh the two-fifty she paid for a thousand people.
Thousand people. That's more than what my school's auditorium can fill.
I can barely imagine how many people Mama reached with her promotional message, and that's probably less than how many Sai Brokerage reached with their emails.
My data sold for a quarter of a rupee to invest in a property which I can't even legally invest in.