"Si c'est gratuit vous êtes le produit" can be translated literally as "If it's free then you are the product".

It expresses the idea that if something is free (like Facebook) then the information you are outputting is being used commercially.

Can you think of a way to transcribe this into the English language?

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  • 3
    I've seen versions of that in English for years; Google your sentence without quotes and choose whichever flavor you like best.
    – KWinker
    May 7, 2016 at 21:41
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    @Lambie: I think the idea here is that, if you can get something free by filling out a registration form that includes various bits of demographic information about you, the service or site or whatever that is offering its content to you for free may actually be selling that information to advertisers and others for whom you are a target; in that sense, your personal data ("you") is a product.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 7, 2016 at 23:07
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    I disagree, @Lambie. In the case of Facebook, it is clear that we users are the product being sold to the (paying) customers.
    – Colin Fine
    May 7, 2016 at 23:31
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    Interesting; I come from a multilingual background (including English and French) and definitely think of this as an English saying, was it really French originally?
    – houbysoft
    May 8, 2016 at 1:49
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    @KWinker - Perfectly demonstrating the underlying point by using "Google" as a verb. Think about how much processing power and bandwidth goes into every single search query. Ever wonder why Google doesn't charge you for use of their technology? Yup. May 8, 2016 at 17:11

10 Answers 10


How about,

if you don't pay you're giving yourself away.

  • 8
    Upvoted because it rhymes
    – Lloeki
    May 8, 2016 at 11:42
  • 1
    Shorter: If you don't pay, you give yourself away. This improves the rhythm, the part lengths are now more balanced.
    – MSalters
    May 9, 2016 at 9:33
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    @MSalters - nice! (although, as a song writer, I find it can be helpful to have lyrics with a certain awkward asymmetry).
    – Dan
    May 9, 2016 at 9:38
  • how 'bout *you sell yourself away, @MSalters ? sounds even more catchy.
    – CptEric
    May 9, 2016 at 10:43
  • Excellen! If Prof Yaffle's answer is the most complete I'll accept this answer for the effort put in for both a concise form and the rhyme :)
    – James P.
    May 14, 2016 at 16:00

There are many variations, all of which roughly translate to the same as the French you quote. There's no "definitive" version.

A quick Google produces examples including:

If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold


If You're Not Paying For It, You Become The Product


If You're Not Paying for It; You're the Product


... so you'd be fine to use "if it's free then you're the product" if that's what you want.

  • 3
    You're not the customer; you're the product
    – Hatshepsut
    May 8, 2016 at 3:02
  • 1
    A nice image that tells the same story can be found at geek-and-poke.com/geekandpoke/2010/12/21/the-free-model.html (disclaimer: nothing to do with me, I just like it).
    – MadHatter
    May 9, 2016 at 8:27
  • Thanks Prof Yaffle. Would have accepted this answer but Dan as a song writer seems to have found the best equivalent in both meaning and form.
    – James P.
    May 14, 2016 at 16:08
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    @JamesPoulson - I think Dan's rhyming form is a less literal translation, more in the spirit of the French version. I'll accept that! May 14, 2016 at 18:45

If you're not paying for a product, you are the product.


Try there's no such thing as a free lunch.

It is used for saying that people cannot get something good, especially for free, without working hard or giving something in exchange.

  • 8
    I think it lacks the "you become the product" part.
    – user66974
    May 7, 2016 at 21:38
  • @Josh61 I believe if I am getting something good for free (like Facebook mentioned by the op), then I must have already, to my knowledge or not, sacrificed or paid for it in some way. This "sacrifice or payment" is becoming a product, in this case me, that advertises the name of Facebook among my friends and family. People saying that I use Facebook all the time, have it on everything with a screen on it and stuff like that just corroborates the fact that I am a product. What do you think?
    – vickyace
    May 7, 2016 at 21:44
  • Usual rendering of " there's no such thing as a free lunch" in French are tout se paie or rien n'est gratuit or *on n'a rien sans rien".
    – None
    May 8, 2016 at 18:38

A frequently used adage in the UK is:

If the deal you are being offered seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • 2
    This seems like a related but not identical quote – the OP's one is saying that if you don't pay for something with money, you pay with something else, like attention or time; yours is that offers which seem to be perfect are likely scams or lies, at least from how it's used here.
    – anon
    May 8, 2016 at 16:33
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    In American it's just: If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Hotlicks prob has the T-shirt.
    – Mazura
    May 8, 2016 at 21:11
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    @Mazura It probably is here, too. I only wrote the longer version to aid comprehension.
    – WS2
    May 8, 2016 at 22:43

Would this work?

"If it's free, they're selling you."

EDIT: Adding my explanation from the comments, as requested.

I was reaching for something concise, while maintaining an acerbic tone. Since the original described "you" as being the product, the intent in saying "they're selling you" was to reduce the individual to a commodity - no different than "they're selling cars."

  • I didn’t even understand this the first time I read it.  Selling generally isn’t directly associated with people; when it is, it’s in connection with slavery.  When sell is followed by a word or name for a person, that person is usually an indirect object; e.g., I could sell you my car.  When I read “they’re selling you,” I thought “That sentence is missing a direct object — what are they selling me?” May 8, 2016 at 5:54
  • Would it loose the confusion @Scott talks about if the sentence was rearranged to say: *"If it's free, it's you they're selling."?
    – neil
    May 8, 2016 at 12:54
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    @neil: I guess that would be better.  I would say "it's you that they're selling," but I'm a little pedantic about that. May 8, 2016 at 15:16
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    I was reaching for something concise, while maintaining an acerbic tone. Since the original described "you" as being the product, the intent in saying "they're selling you" was to reduce the individual to a commodity - no different than "they're selling cars." However, I can definitely see the confusion when reading it with grammar glasses.
    – WonderGrub
    May 8, 2016 at 19:00
  • This is the pithiest translation of the first part, and from my rudimentary understanding of French, it seems to be the closest.
    – user1359
    May 9, 2016 at 14:46

Free? Then you're paying with your freedom.

  • 2
    You need to present your views. Such hort answers are not professional and expected.
    – vickyace
    May 9, 2016 at 9:50

Slogans with the same meaning might be:

  • Here comes the free internet, good bye to (the) privacy.

  • If it's free, forget (the) privacy.

  • Too specific, in my humble opinion. The cost might be something other than your privacy; for example, it's often your time. May 8, 2016 at 7:40
  • In both cases, "the privacy" should, I think, be "privacy". May 8, 2016 at 17:25
  • "If it's free, say goodbye to your privacy" has a good rhyme to it :)
    – James P.
    Jun 7, 2016 at 0:38

"If you don't know who is the mark, you are the mark."

(Context: "mark" here in the sense of a target to be fleeced, e.g., in a crooked gambling game.)


At first I thought, The first hit's always free. But that speaks more to making money off you, rather than you becoming the thing bought and sold -- you know, like those contests for free cars that are thinly disguised ploys to get your marketing information.

I think if it's free, you're the product is good enough, unless you're looking for the equivalent idiom in English.

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