Google Pays Users for Browsing Data

Google is building an opt-in user panel that will track and analyze people’s online behaviors via an extension to its Chrome browser, called Screenwise. Users that install the plug-in will have the websites they visit and the ways in which they interact with them recorded, and they will then be paid with Amazon gift cards worth up to $25 a year in return.

According to Google, the project is essentially a market research tool, and information gleaned from it will be used to improve its products and services for its users.

It’s unclear whether that data will be used solely for Google’s purposes or if access to it might eventually be sold to third parties in a similar fashion to Nielsen and ComScore’s audience-measurement products. But it seems likely the information will be used to inform its ad products and targeting algorithms.

In a statement, Google said, “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. This panel is one such small project that started near the beginning of the year. Of course, this is completely optional to join. 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.”

In the past two weeks, Google has changed its privacy policies to allow it to move data around more freely between its various products, and earlier this week implied it will soon begin tying users’ mobile-device data to their desktops.

The panel, being assembled in conjunction with Knowledge Networks, is still in its infancy, but whatever it grows into one thing seems clear: Google is arming itself with as much data as it can get its hands on.

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