Google's Screenwise Project Will Give You Money If You Give Up Your Privacy

In the midst of outcry over the changes in Google's privacy policy, the search giant has announced that it will start paying some users to share their search history as part of a new project dubbed Screenwise.

Search Engine Land reports that people who sign up to be on the Screenwise panel will receive a $5 credit on Amazon for installing a browser extension that allows all of the data from their Chrome browsing to be collected. Participants will get an additional $5 for every three months of participation up to one year. Fine print on the Screenwise landing page states that after a year the terms of payment could change.

Google was vague about what details the members of its "panel" would share. "As a panelist, you'll add a browser extension that will share with Google the sites you visit and how you use them," Google said.

Despite the fact that the payment gets redeemed on Amazon, the online retailer is not involved in the panel. Online research firm Knowledge Networks is listed as the project's "panel management partner."

On the Screenwise page, Google writes of the panel's goals, "What we learn from you, and others like you, will help us improve Google products and services and make a better online experience for everyone."

When asked about the program by eWeek, a Google spokesperson responded:

People can choose to participate if it's of interest (or if the gift appeals) and everyone who does participate has complete transparency and control over what Internet use is being included in the panel. People can stay on the panel as long as they'd like, or leave at any time.

Interested internet users are asked to enter their email on the Screenwise page and they will be contacted once registration begins. Participants must be at least 13 years old and must be willing to use Chrome.

The announcement came one day after Google finally released the beta version of its Chrome app for Android phones and tablets. Unfortunately for most Android users, the app only works on devices running the most recent version of the Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich. According to Android's developer website, only 1 percent of Android devices currently use Ice Cream Sandwich.

Google has come under fire recently for a planned system-wide change to its privacy policy. In January, Google announced that it would be consolidating 60 of the more than 70 distinct privacy policies that stretch across its many services.

The proposed changes have been received negatively by privacy groups, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), that bristle at the mandatory nature of the policy and fear that consolidation of user data will make it even easier for Google to share information about users. Google claims that the changes are only meant to increase ease of use and to help the company target ads more accurately.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, on Wednesday EPIC filed a federal lawsuit against the FTC, a move the group hopes will halt Google's privacy changes. As the article reports, EPIC is claiming that Google's privacy changes violate a consent order that was part of a settlement in a previous Google, FTC case. EPIC is suing the FTC to get them to enforce the order.

EPIC's executive director Marc Rotenberg told the Los Angeles Times:

If some users like the Google change in terms of service, that's OK. They should opt-in. But if other users don't like the proposed change, they have the right to say no. This has to be the user's choice, not Google's choice. And the FTC must enforce its consent order to protect the rights of users to make these choices.

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