Update: Google responded to my request for comment shortly after this story ran. See here for details.
Google has begun accepting email addresses from people interested in participating in their new Screenwise program. The program is designed to monitor participants’ internet usage in order to help Google gather information about how people use the internet.
The Screenwise sign-up page features a description of the program and a place for you to enter your email address. Google promises to let users know when the program is ready to roll out. The program requires you to use Google’s Chrome browser. It works via a Screenwise extension that monitors your internet activities. In return you get a code for a $5 Amazon gift card as soon as you download the extension. After that you get another $5 gift card every three months for a year. For those of you who can’t math, that’s $25 in Amazon cards if you’re willing to let Google see what you’re doing on the internet for a year.
The fine print includes a few interesting details of the program. First of all, it suggests that the users may continue to use the extension after their initial year is up, and that Google will evaluate changes to the rewards program after the end of the year. The fine print also says that Google will forward all email addresses to Knowledge Networks, their management partner on the Screenwise project, and then immediately delete them. They also say that Knowledge Networks will not share your email address.
I sent a message to Google requesting comment. Specifically, I asked about the kind of data the screenwise extension will collect about participants’ web activities, and whether the extension’s monitoring will be turned off when users switch their Chrome browser into incognito mode. Google has not responded yet. Look for an update if and when they do.
What do you think about Screenwise? Is it a good idea, or just creepy? Let us know what you think in the comments.