Are you looking for a way to get rich? This isn’t the place for that; but if you are into over-sharing, this is definitely the program for you. Starting today, you can sign up for Google’s new trend survey program called Screenwise. All you have to do is enable a Chrome browser extension and let Google watch your every click. In exchange, you get a $5 gift card for signing up and then another $5 card after letting them observe your browsing habits for three months. THREE MONTHS!
The program will track you even when you’re using an incognito window (read: they want to know what kind of filthy porn you like), but you can pause the tracking if you really don’t want them to know about your weird fetishes. After the initial gift card, the daily payout for this wealth of information comes down to a little over 5¢ per day.
In some ways, it’s nice for the Internet search (and increasingly everything else) company to at least put a price on your browsing habits. That sort of behavioral information is incredibly valuable to advertisers and explains how social networking services like Facebook make their money. If you wondered how Google realized $27 in annual revenue per user, this is part of the answer. Until now, though, it was difficult to gauge exactly how much it was worth to them. Now, 5¢ doesn’t seem like a lot to any individual person, but when it’s aggregated over the 700 million people who use Facebook, for example, and you’re looking at $35 Million dollars PER DAY!
I should point out that this really isn’t a general privacy concern, since people absolutely have to opt in to the service, but it does raise a few questions. What about people who use a shared computer? According to an open letter from Screen Wise director, J. Michael Dennis, PhD., the Terms of Service require you to pause the information collection while any kids under 13 are using your tracked browser. This is to comply with COPPA, I presume. Other people over 13 are fair game, I guess. What happens if one of the people using the shared computer is not aware of the tracking until after the fact? I doubt they’d be entitled to compensation, so it’s at your own risk. For the foreseeable future, if you’re using Chrome on a friend’s computer, you may want to find out if they’re in the program and pause the collection if you don’t want Google to track you.