In November, two shopping malls were halted in plans to track shopper activities through their cell phones. It is only the most recent example of big business doing high-tech snooping in order to obtain marketing demographics. Now Google has decided to put an open face on the endeavor and ask consumers to give up their privacy voluntarily. It will pay those consumers, but not a whole lot.
Google is initiating a program it calls Screenwise to help it “learn more about how everyday people use the Internet.” If a user agrees to the terms of the program, that user will be required to download a browser extension that will keep track of every keystroke, mouse click or tablet computer tap they make for a minimum of one year. All that data will be piped back to Google central.
For their trouble the users will receive an initial Amazon credit bump worth $5. Other money-like perks will be dispensed quarterly, but the Screenwise sign up page says that it will pay out a maximum value of $25 for the year.
For those wishing to earn a little more, there is the option to install the Screenwise Data Collector. Users enrolled in that program will receive an initial payout of $100. After that, users can expect $20 a month. That is a huge difference from the basic Screenwise program, and one can only wonder how much more deeply it will snoop into the user’s cyber activity.
The tech site Search Engine Land asked Google why it needs this personal information from its users. The company replied with an official statement:
“Like many other web and media companies, we do panel research to help better serve our users by learning more about people’s media use, on the web and elsewhere … Of course, this is completely optional to join … People can stay on the panel as long as they’d like or leave at any time.”
So, apparently it’s for the benefit of its users. Who thinks their online experience will be improved by the program?
Users interested in the program must be at least 13 years of age, have a Google account and use the Chrome browser. Those interested in learning more or signing up can go to the page Google has set up for that purpose.
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