Let me start this column by declaring something that should be obvious to all in the digital world but often is not: The internet is not free.

For years, people said that information (or as is often the case, content) was free. And for 20 years, most companies seeking to make their millions or billions on the internet acted that way, offering free access to their content and selling advertising. Along the way, some bad actors ruined the party by exploiting users’ information without their permission for financial gain. That led to the emergence of rules and regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) — and here we are today.