Tiffany Houkom

Extra! Google’s Paying for Your Detailed User Activity

The Internet: love it or hate it, you probably spend a decent amount of time online both at work and at home. In 2010, comScore reported that the average American spent 32 hours per month on the Internet. With the vast amount of time we are spending (or wasting) online, wouldn’t it be nice to be rewarded for your browsing efforts? This wish has been granted thanks to Google’s latest venture: Screenwise Trends.

Earlier this year, Google began allowing users to become “panelists” on its Screenwise program by downloading a Chrome browser extension to track their web usage. This program enables Google to gather information about users that is not available through its own browser or services. According to Google, it hopes to learn more about peoples’ web usage, including “what time of day people browse, how long they stay on websites and what types of sites are popular (or not).” The ultimate goal of Screenwise is to provide valuable insight that will help Google better its products and improve the overall web experience.

Now to the important part: the reward for becoming a panelist. After downloading the browser extension, every panelist receives their choice of a modest gift card for retailers such as Barnes & Noble or travel providers like Expedia. In addition to the initial reward, panelists receive an additional gift card every three months to thank them for their continued participation.

Matt McGee, Executive News Editor at Search Engine Land, claims the program comes at an unusual time, “considering the backlash that Google has faced over the upcoming changes to its privacy policy.” Even though Google is not actively inviting users to join Screenwise (it is 100% opt-in), McGee speculates that critics will question the reasoning behind the search giant’s need to access additional user data.

What are your thoughts on Google Screenwise? Do you think it’s necessary for Google’s need to obtain information about web activity outside of using its search browser? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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