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If You’re Going to Be Spied On, Might As Well Get Paid For It

Google’s been in the tech headlines lately, and not in a way that will bolster their stock prices. Words like “invasive” and “Big Brother” have been attached to the company’s new streamlined privacy policy, which has come under fire not only from users but also from industry advocates and US Congressmen.

As you should know (and if you don’t, you better sit down for this), Google has already stored every Gmail you ever sent, every search you made on its search engine, every video you’ve watched on YouTube and every appointment on your Google Calendar. And with their new privacy policy, they can combine this data for an even more detailed picture of who you are and what you like to do online.

Congressman Ed Markey has announced plans to have the new Google policy reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission. “Google’s privacy policy changes mean consumers can’t say no to sharing their personal information across Google’s websites. Consumers, not Google, should be able to make these decisions,” Markey said.

Beyond the privacy issues, however, there is also the heightened possibility of a data breach. Before, your Gmail information was stored in one place, your Google Analytics in another, your YouTube history in another. Now Google has brought those separate histories together, making it easier for cyber-criminals to compromise that data.

Ultimately, much of this will end up in court. But as long as Google is able to profit from your private information, which they do with advertisers and other corporate entities, they will not give up this privilege willingly.

What can you do? The most obvious way to fight back is to not use Google services as often, and make sure you log off every time when you are finished.

You can also try to share in the profits Google makes from your information. The compensation won’t be enough to secure your retirement, but as long as the system is storing your data anyway, you might as well get paid for it.

Right now there are two ways to do this. First, there is a Chrome browser extension that you agree to install, that automatically shares with Google all the sites you visit and how you use them. You’ll receive a $5 Amazon gift card for signing up, and then another one every three months.

The second option stems from a partnership between Google and Knowledge Networks, and is open only to users of both services. The first 2500 households invited to join the study received $100 up front and $20 a month thereafter. Those who participate will be asked to install a high-end router from Cisco that records all relevant web access data. This data will then be anonymized and shared with advertisers, publishers, programmers, schools – basically anyone that wants to pay to take a peek.

If you’re interested, you can register at Google’s Screenwise page. However, be aware that any time you voluntarily agree to share your online activity, there is always a risk of that information being obtained by someone who can use it against you. When banks, hospitals and even federal government offices have been hacked, there’s no reason to believe that Google is invulnerable.


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