Google to Pay Browsers who Give up their Privacy Online

By Jacqueline Lee February 10, 2012

Google has just announced a plan to pay people to browse the Web through its Screenwise program, which will in turn collect information on users’ browsing habits. Opponents are citing Google’s recent controversial privacy policy updates and are criticizing the company for attempting to collect even more information about what people are doing on the Web.

Even Google has acknowledged the potential for backlash. “Even though this Screenwise program is completely opt-in, some critics are bound to question why Google needs more data about web searchers and the websites they visit,” said the company on its website. “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.”

Google has also reported overwhelming response to its Screenwise offering, which provides panelists with $25 in Amazon gift cards as well as a $5 voucher for signing up. Those who sign up simply download a Google browser extension that will track their movements in minute detail. Those who stay with the program longer may be eligible to earn more vouchers.

Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a known consumer privacy advocate, has criticized Google’s new information collection methods. He and seven other members of Congress sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking questions about the company’s new privacy policy. Markey expressed dissatisfaction with Google’s response and invited Page to meet with him regarding the issue.

“Sharing users’ personal information across its products may make good business sense for Google, but it undermines privacy safeguards for consumers,” Markey said in a statement. “Despite Google’s recent response, it still appears that consumers will not be able to completely opt-out of data collection and information sharing among Google’s services.”

Google has repeatedly stated that the purpose of its new privacy policy is to improve the user experience across its products, which include Google Search, Gmail and YouTube. The Electronic Privacy and Information Center has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that Google’s new policy violates a settlement struck with the FTC over a similar issue last summer. Google’s new privacy policy will go into effect March 1.

To participate in Screenwise, surfers must be over the age of 13. Anyone under the age of 18 will require parental consent.

Jacqueline Lee is a TechZone360 contributor who produces web content, blogs and articles for numerous websites including Her background is in business and education.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

Contributing Writer

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