/ Technology

Google! My privacy’s worth more than a few crummy gift cards

Magnifying glass on Google search page

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’.

It’s easy to see why. Google already knows a lot about your online habits. It uses cookies to track you online and then uses the information it collects to tailor advertisements and drive revenue.

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.


Never have liked Chrome least of all being tracked by Google
for whatever valuable consideration they care to offer… the
browser and/or O S I use do not permit adverts at all,
unlike in bad old days.

Beware I have had technicians accessing my computer remotely which means there is no security or privacy .
Today Amazon the Internet site have used details given for former purchase to send me 2 bundles of ink cartridges had been looking at but decided not to take up as no paypal. They were informed before dispatch that didn’t want but went ahead regardless
.Worse still the Pollce [ Call centre] say not a crime & bank say have to wait till tomorrow but are not interested in fraud against us .
Why should I have to waste valuable time & money sending back to a call Centre that will probably not refund.As for Visa Disputes they side with biggest bank account wasting moths & months……