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Sell yourself to Google for $5

Google is willing to pay you for additional tracking of your online habits -- but if you want in on the deal, you'll have to get in line.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 13, 2012 4:05PM

This post comes fromSarah Morgan at partner siteSmartMoney.


Internet users are selling themselves to Google -- and for cheap.


The web giant's Screenwise program offers consumers the opportunity to let Google track their Internet activity -- and get paid for it. Google offers participating "panelists" a $5 Amazon gift card for signing up and additional $5 gift cards every three months, up to $25 total.


But given that experts estimate an individual's personal data can be worth as much as $5,000, consumers who sign up may be selling themselves short. "I'd probably want a little bit more," says David Jacobs, a consumer-privacy fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit focused on privacy, civil liberties and technology issues.


For all the concerns over Internet privacy, Google is actually having to turn people away. The site currently says "we are overwhelmed by your interest at the moment" and doesn't allow new sign-ups. Post continues below.

To be sure, this is an entirely opt-in program, and consumers have been joining focus groups and letting Nielsen spy on their TV habits for small fees or prizes for years. The program also doesn't create targeted ads, and that kind of information is generally worth more money than aggregate data about general browsing habits. A spokesman for Google says, "This is a small, optional, online panel, similar to others run by many Web and media companies."


Google already tracks what sites people using its Chrome browser visit, as well as what people search for. This program likely allows for more in-depth tracking, potentially including information such as how long users stay on a particular site or possibly even where their mouse moves on a page, Jacobs says. The basic description Google provides simply says users will let Google see "the sites you visit and how you use them."


The bigger question, Jacobs says, is what programs like this do to our conception of privacy and what it's worth. Does a $5 price tag "devalue privacy," or does creating a clear marketplace for data increase the value of something most of us are currently just giving away? "It might just be something that causes people to realize that their information has monetary value in a way that they didn't realize before," he says.


More on SmartMoney and MSN Money:

Feb 13, 2012 5:03PM
People sell themselves so cheaply!  This is a gold mine for Google.
Feb 14, 2012 10:41PM
Wow, $5.  I'm worth at least $5.50 or $6.00 at least.  If I didn't have manners I would tell Google where they can go.  But I guess you can figure that out
Feb 14, 2012 9:22PM

Wow, didn't know G-O-O-G-L-E-C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R spelled "sucker."


I really don't think people, especially those under 30, realize how big of a deal this is.  Google is researching the perfect method of inundating your very existance with CONSTANT marketing.  Every time you connect to the internet at home or work, they want to force-feed you advertising that is targeted directly at what interests you.  Every time you connect mobily or at a hotspot, you will be fed locational ads that will target your weaknesses.  At an airport for a layover? You will be bombarded by ads for food.  And since airport prices are near-extortion, we know you had previously decided to not eat anything during the layover.  Then comes the marketing and suddenly you feel a pang, then you give in.  As you travel around using your phone, you can expect ads for commercial businesses nearby to come in via im, text and even smartphone-based GPS apps.  And people are willing to sell out themselves AND all the rest of us for $5! 

This is NOT a good thing.  Just go back and watch Blade Runner's various LA streetscape scenes for an idea of how intrusive advertising can become if we let it.

Feb 14, 2012 10:40AM
There's no such thing as privacy. They are mining for the most gullible.
Feb 15, 2012 5:07AM
I've refused to do those phone surveys for years now, based on the same principle.  If companies want MY information to make them money then I want my share of that profit.  No more free lunches from me just like them.  Pay me if my info is used for profit, which it is.
Feb 14, 2012 8:49PM
maybe we should all delete our Google account to make our contempt heard by those who are taking Power over our actions. Privacy on the Internet is available and protected by some. Those who prefer to take advantage of us by tricking us, may get a piece of their medicine
Feb 14, 2012 8:35PM
I deleted my google account yesterday.
Feb 15, 2012 7:57AM
It'll be awfully hard for some to stop visiting the porn sites. ;-P
Feb 15, 2012 12:05PM

damnit.. i sold myself yesterday to bing for $4.99..


Feb 15, 2012 11:41AM
You leave enough online traces of yourself as it is.  Why would you sell your soul to Google too?!
Feb 14, 2012 10:31PM
As an IT Professional, you are never truly safe from Internet marketing.  You will get that crap whether you want it or not.  At least this way, you get something tangible for the annoyance you are bombarded with.
Feb 15, 2012 2:13PM

A company wants to buy something that you produce without active effort, is harvested without any significant inconvenience to you, can't possibly put to any use by you, and can't possibly be depleted (nothing prevents you from selling the same information to  Microsoft, Google, and any number of other interested companies). People think it's a horrible deal because they're not getting enough for it? I feel like I'm missing something here.


double-o7, nothing prevents you from selling yourself to Bing and Google for a total of $9.99.

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