Google claims it's not out to snoop on everyone's dirty Internet habits, but to see where everyday people surf the World Wide Web. This information the Chrome plugin collects -- which will also track private browsing but won't connect the collected data with the actual user -- will supposedly be used to improve its own products and services like Gmail, Google+, Google Maps and more. Participants will receive a $5 Amazon gift card by simply installing the plugin, and then receive another $5 Amazon gift card for every three months they stick with the program.
Google is also offering an even more extensive and lucrative plan for those who don't mind sharing information from multiple computers. This second program involves setting up a data collector router to the local network in addition to installing the browser plugin. Google will pay participants $100 for just signing up, and then $20 per month for as long as the user participates. The maximum length is one year, and the plugin must be installed on all PCs located in the home.
To participate in Screenwise, interested users must be at least 13 years old, have a Google account, and use Google's Chrome browser. That said, those using the $25 plan can take a break from Google's poking and prodding by using Firefox or another browser. They can also simply "pause" the metering conducted by the Chrome plugin and resume at a later time.
Those who choose to get on the meatier plan may not have that option given that the hardware collects data. Even more, data collected through the router will be shared by third parties including "academic institutions, advertisers, publishers, and programming networks." Some of that data will be personally identifiable save for HTTPS traffic and private browsing.
"The panel - called Screenwise - is similar to those used by many market research companies," Google states. "This panel is designed to help us understand web usage better - such as what times of day people browse, how long they stay on websites and what types of sites are popular (or not). As a Screenwise Internet Trends panelist, you'll add a browser extension that will share with Google the sites you visit and how you use them. 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."
The Screenwise page currently states that Google has already received more applications than anticipated, so they're suspended until the search engine giant can make additional room at a later date. Still, is all this data sharing worth the money? It all sounds a little scary.
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Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more.