Google is offering to pay people for the permission to track their movements online. So, would you sell your data for a few pounds’ worth of Amazon gift cards, or is it worth more to you than that?
The search giant is inviting would-be panellists to install an extension to Google Chrome. It will allow Google to monitor the websites you visit and what you do there – in return you’ll get an Amazon gift card.
Those who install Screenwise will receive up to $25 worth of Amazon vouchers; $5 when they first sign up and an additional $5 for every three months that you stay with them. Google says:
‘As a panelist, you’ll add a browser extension that will share with Google the sites you visit and how you use them. What we learn from you, and others like you, will help us improve Google products and services.’
Savvy surfers get Screenwise
The concept is clearly a popular one. Google has already stopped accepting new panellists with a message on the Screenwise page stating: ‘We appreciate and are overwhelmed by your interest at the moment. Please come back later for more details’.
This Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) is a lucrative business for online marketeers who currently pay us nothing for parting with our personal data. As I’ve argued previously here on Conversation, they should be, which is probably the conclusion others have reached before signing up.
Is Google’s Screenwise the answer?
Personally, there are a few serious questions I’d want Google to answer before I considered signing up.
On the plus side, it’s good that Screenwise is transparent. By signing up I’d know Google was tracking my movements online. Dr Rob Reid, our scientific policy advisor, had this to say:
‘While some may question whether $25 is adequate, in Google’s defence, they are being up front about the collection and use of data and they are offering to pay consumers for it, something that most of the industry has yet to do.’
But what would happen if I decided to opt out? Is Google going to keep the data it’s collected to date? And if so, for how long? Would I be able to exercise my right to be forgotten? It’s a right that the European Commission thinks I should be able to exercise.
Equally, I’d want to know whether the data that Google is collecting is personally identifiable to me, Sarah Kidner, or if it would be anonymised and used to monitor general trends?
However, my biggest concern is the ‘reward’ Google’s offering for the privilege of tracking me online. If I don’t opt-out can it monitor me for life? My privacy is worth more than a few crummy gift cards. And it’s worth a whole lot more to Google than that.