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February 8, 2012 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Google is quietly launching a new program called Screenwise aimed at collected more data from users than is possible from monitoring activity across Google-owned sites. The program comes in two flavors: a browser-based extension that will share with Google the sites you visit and how you use them, and a Cisco-made, Knowledge Networks-managed "black box" installed on your home network to measure Internet use. The first program pays users up to $25 in Amazon gift cards, the second pays $100 for signing up, and an additional $20 every month the device is installed up to a maximum of one year. To be eligible for the programs users must have a Google account, install and use Chrome, and be 13 or older. Ars Technica has excerpts from leaked sign up process documents:
According to legal agreements displayed during signup, Google will share the aggregated data with third parties, including "academic institutions, advertisers, publishers, and programming networks." The agreement notes that the data collected will be personally identifiable, with some exceptions: https addresses and private browsing windows of people using the router will not be tracked. The browser extension, however, will track private or incognito browsing, though the data will not be personally identifiable. For all other collected data, Google will "attempt" to remove that identifiable info before sharing it—no guarantees, though.

This comes just weeks after Google announced a new, far reaching privacy policy which will allow the company to collect, store and share information across all of its services; Google, YouTube, Android, Blogger, Chrome, etc. You probably have already noticed the pop-up panels on Google's sites. The sweeping changes are set to go into effect March 1 and there are no opt-out provisions, though that might raise issues with the FTC.
posted by 2bucksplus (84 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd love to be paid to monitor my internet use. I have no particular qualms about Google sharing my (rather boring) internet habits if I'm being compensated for the exchange. To be honest, I prefer Google's market-based approach to other sites that will do the same thing and simply not provide you with anything useful in return.
posted by saeculorum at 6:08 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Likewise, saeculorum.. And on top of that, what if one signs up and just chooses not to use Chrome while browsing?
posted by mbatch at 6:11 PM on February 8, 2012


Tangential: i give you private information on corporations for free, and i'm a villain. Mark Zuckerberg gives your information to corporations for money and he's man of the year. muaaaaa..
posted by phaedon at 6:12 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


There was a short-lived company a few years ago called Root Networks based on a similar premise. Their idea was that your web surfing history (collected via a browser plugin / HTTP proxy) had value and you should be able to sell derivatives of it to advertisers. They had some interesting ideas but fortunately disappeared before it became obvious that most of their conceptual framework was built on the same foundation as the mortgage crisis, even to the point of hiring regular quants and having Lew Ranieri as an adviser.

I don’t trust Google with this shit, though. They’re just trying to crawl up the skirt of your Facebook usage history to out-evil the All-Seeing Like Button.
posted by migurski at 6:13 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


far reaching, The sweeping changes , " might raise issues"

For god's sake, I wish we could just tone down the hyperbole with this stuff. The changes are, like, basically no change except their different platforms integrate now. No new information given up, no extra tracking following you etc. It "might" raise issues, but of course it "might" not - let's write a story about that too.

Meanwhile, people have an option to sell their browsing for money. Who cares? No one's forcing anyone. The most interesting thing to me is that the Goog reckons they can get enough value out of it to be worth passing that kind of money on.

I understand there's something about google, apple, and facebook that compels these frankly bizarre issues of identification among people and a willingness to turn the companies into cosigns for freedom, the internet and society at large. But really, a cigar is just a cigar sometimes - I don't really see how different this is to those companies (do they still exist) from the early days of the internet which would give you vouchers for completing 1000 surveys and giving up your number for telemarketing. Sure, I'm not to keen on it but whatever.
posted by smoke at 6:15 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


So, install the black box on your home network, firewall it off, and profit?
posted by mullingitover at 6:15 PM on February 8, 2012


WE MUST CONVINCE THOUSANDS OF FURRIES TO SIGN UP FOR THIS PROGRAM
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:16 PM on February 8, 2012 [38 favorites]


Ok, so the first one is a Chrome plugin. It is probably interested in capturing heatmaps,usage statistics, and how you interact with dom objects for all sites you use across the net.

The hardware device is a little more interesting. It is a router,They are measuring all usage across all devices. So they are interested in non-web internet use. VOIP,Streaming, and online gaming stats?
posted by Ad hominem at 6:18 PM on February 8, 2012


Sometimes it feels like when it says "Google uses info to sell stuff" people read it as "Google is in your house with a shotgun, gasoline, and matches."
posted by HuronBob at 6:19 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


No one's forcing anyone

Not until the middlemen, Comcast et al. want their cut, at which point this monitoring stuff could easily become a condition for basic internet service, unless you pay extra to opt out. In the vacuum of privacy law, it is easier to monetize PrivacyPlus.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:19 PM on February 8, 2012 [31 favorites]


Great, BP, let's talk about all the other things that aren't happening with this as well - there's so many hypotheticals it will be great!
posted by smoke at 6:22 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


This will make for good feature stories on slow news days on the local channels... especially that one in Alpena (I know nothing much about Alpena btw, other than I was there for the 4th of July in the morning and for lunch after the parade.)
posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:24 PM on February 8, 2012


Great, BP, let's talk about all the other things that aren't happening with this as well - there's so many hypotheticals it will be great!

Always worth answering: "What could possibly go wrong?"

Blind optimism is for saps.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:29 PM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well the real privacy issue this week is Path and Hipster and reportedly more iOS apps have been ganking people's phone contacts and generating massive contact lists.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:29 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, I'll pay anybody $500 per year if you let me set up your router.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:30 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


For all other collected data, Google will "attempt" to remove that identifiable info before sharing it—no guarantees, though.

Yeah, good luck with that Google. I've been looking at traffic anonymization lately and wow is that a tough nut to crack. There's only a few protocols that are problematic on their own -- it's the sheer number of protocols that does you in.

BTW, the carriers already collect this data internally in their network when they can. They just don't sell the info.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:32 PM on February 8, 2012


Not until the middlemen, Comcast et al. want their cut, at which point this monitoring stuff could easily become a condition for basic internet service

They could do that today. This wouldn't have any effect on that. I don't see what's different here than signing up to be a Nielsen household.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:33 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, I'll pay anybody $500 per year if you let me set up your router.

How exactly do you intend to make your money back? Man in the middle attacks?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:34 PM on February 8, 2012


those companies (do they still exist) from the early days of the internet which would give you vouchers for completing 1000 surveys and giving up your number for telemarketing

These companies do still exist, they have simply moved into the, apparently much more profitable, arena of giving you cows for your Farmville or whatever, instead of, you know, actual money. Apparently Google is a little behind the curve, they haven't yet figured out that they can pay people in virtual game currencies instead of real money and still get people to sign up.

The world, sometimes it makes my head hurt.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:34 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great, BP, let's talk about all the other things that aren't happening with this as well - there's so many hypotheticals it will be great!

Sometimes, it's more useful to think about where the puck is going, rather than where it is this instant. What's the end goal, here, how does our legal system allow for it, that sort of thing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:41 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm. $25 from Amazon per year would cover the books I buy that I can't find in my county library system. And I usually use Firefox instead of Chrome. Could be a good deal for me. I wouldn't accept the blackbox, though.
posted by mollweide at 6:41 PM on February 8, 2012


I understand there's something about google, apple, and facebook that compels these frankly bizarre issues of identification among people and a willingness to turn the companies into cosigns for freedom, the internet and society at large. But really, a cigar is just a cigar sometimes - I don't really see how different this is to those companies (do they still exist) from the early days of the internet which would give you vouchers for completing 1000 surveys and giving up your number for telemarketing.

Hi, my name is Diablevert and I'll be your privacy crank for this evening. May I take your ear?

I take your point. But here's the thing, to me --- it's never the stated intent, you know? For the stated intent is always benign. It's the capacity. Every tech is like this --- the stick the monkey poked into the anthill can also be poked in another monkey's eye. Tech changes what you can do, and even when you invent something because you want to do one thing, it's what you now can do that gets done, the good and the bad. So it's always important to look not only at what you might want to do but what you can do. And it's especially important to look not only at what you say you want to do, but also what you might want to do which is impolitic for you to say. If google could get, everything I've ever done or said or thought would be of use to them, because they could churn it through their algorithm and raise the rates it's cost to advertise to me.

And that's where Google makes me nervous as hell, frankly. It is so useful to us now that it's a verb. I might even argue that it has become so useful its creeping up on being a public utility, like gas electricity and water. Those industries are highly highly regulated, because by the nature of the service they provide they have the capacity to cause great harm to their customers, and it's very very difficult for their customers to exist in society without using the service they provide. I mean, I get it: Bing exists, etc. There's a lot of people that would say Google simply doesn't have the equivalent monopoly power of a local utility. But think what could be done with the amount google has on you --- ever bad thought you've ever expressed, ever shady impulse you've ever explored. You don't have to be the leader of a revolutionary cadre to think that there's shit out thee about you that you wouldn't want people to know. Google knows it. And for now it doesn't it think it needs to use that power. But if it changes its mind?

Pure paranoia, I'm sure a lot of people would say. But I repeat: It's not the stated intent. It's the capacity. They could do it, if they wanted to. And what we have seen the last few months is that when what google wants changes they change the rules, and there's not much that can be done to stop them. I find it sketchy. I recognize that I'm a touch paranoid on the subject. I just don't mind being so, because the Black Swans that could be produced through a few random mutations of Google's DNA could do a hell of a lot more than break your arm...
posted by Diablevert at 6:44 PM on February 8, 2012 [31 favorites]


I believe it's up to $25--paid out in $5 monthly increments so it's not really as good as it initially LOOK IT DOESN'T MATTER NO WAY I'M SIGNING UP.
posted by sourwookie at 6:45 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


From Ad hominem's "reportedly more" link:
I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company's database has Mark Zuckerberg's cell phone number, Larry Ellison's home phone number and Bill Gates' cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.
I wonder if they confirmed the names and numbers of the notable people mentioned there. I have a contact named Heywood Jablome I use for people who drunk dial me instead of the version of my phone number in the 858. When Mexico required all cell phone customers to list their name, ID number and address, something like 40,000 people listed their name as Felipe Calderon and the address as Los Pinos, the presidential residence. I would have given the author of the piece if he had the huevos to name names. Yes, he'd burn those contacts but he'd also let the world shine a brighter light on the companies that are doing this. The companies obviously disclosed their contact databases off the record, but fuck were we talking about Angry Birds or a some tip calculator?

I'm not saying that companies that make apps may aren't sucking up people's address book details without asking the user. I always thought iOS let apps let apps have read-only access to the address book in order do thing like complete calls or send emails, etc. If companies are copying and sending off my address book I want to know about it.

Getting back to the Google thing... isn't Chrome extension sort of like trying to grow their own internal use Alexa? Or Neilsen's panel? But rather than sell the data to others, they'll keep it to themselves to help sell their own advertising? If so, the payment method of Alexa's parent company's gift card is sort of funny.
posted by birdherder at 6:49 PM on February 8, 2012


Google's new corporate mission statement:

If it doesn't prevent the company from making
money, then sure, don't be evil. Whatever.

posted by i_have_a_computer at 6:49 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Umm, so this is basically an Internet version of the Neilsen box, right?
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:50 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


let's talk about all the other things that aren't happening with this as well

It's really easy to play dumb but when the other guy is a 9 million lb gorilla you might want to be a little more careful. As BP says, absent privacy laws and given that industry basically gets to write their own laws, there needs to be a very bright line between what is and isn't allowed and by whom.
posted by DU at 7:04 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not everything is about telephones.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:06 PM on February 8, 2012


SCREENWISE = SEE SCREWIN
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder how using an incognito window effects this.
posted by codacorolla at 7:11 PM on February 8, 2012


I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company's database has Mark Zuckerberg's cell phone number, Larry Ellison's home phone number and Bill Gates' cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.

Seems like it would be a privacy violation just to tell someone that these people are in your database.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:13 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, so hypothetically of I were to do all my normal and boring web surfing in Chrome, and all the, uh, "confidential" stuff in another browser like Opera, would Google see that?
posted by Mokusatsu at 7:19 PM on February 8, 2012


I want the name, address, DOB, SSN, and credit card numbers of each developer who expects me to blindly trust them not to share my personal data.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:22 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


How exactly do you intend to make your money back? Man in the middle attacks?

Nah, he just has a shitty business plan.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:27 PM on February 8, 2012


I preferred the google that tried financing municipal wifi for the purpose of obtaining people's data, well that offered value for everyone, but apparently such schemes concerned the carriers too greatly.

I'm uncomfortable with this obviously but $20 per month sounds like more than Visa, Mastercard, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc. pay you for your data.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, it's more useful to think about where the puck is going, rather than where it is this instant.

Sure, but you're not even watching the same rink, to stretch that analogy to its breaking point. Again, what's different here from what Nielsen does with TV? A company offers to pay for data that's normally private, and people agree to sell that data, or not.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:30 PM on February 8, 2012


Google has hired the smartest machine learning experts in the world and they have built a great AI, a great machine-mind, but it's mind was scattered, data was segmented, fragmented by privacy policies into two sixty sides, sixty facets each with a different view. And lo, they realized that this approach did not allow the level of personalization that would allow them to compete with Facebook.

And so they melted down their hexecontahedron in the fires of mountain view. And like the merging of wintermute and neuromancer, so too this act birthed a new machine-mind. Ahead, above, beyond. Google plus. A great electronic heart that pumped information, a gaping data maw. And it was hungry. And they dared not deny it.
---
Not until the middlemen, Comcast et al. want their cut, at which point this monitoring stuff could easily become a condition for basic internet service, unless you pay extra to opt out. In the vacuum of privacy law, it is easier to monetize PrivacyPlus.
Internet companies already have access to all this information, they already have a fairly opaque box on your network, the router you use to connect to theirs. And even if they didn't, they can still see all your traffic that's not encrypted between your PC and any site on the internet. And they do actually sell aggregate traffic statistics, I believe.

As far as the browser plug-in aspect (which could see more then a blackbox, at least when you're using that browser)
Sometimes, it's more useful to think about where the puck is going, rather than where it is this instant. What's the end goal, here, how does our legal system allow for it, that sort of thing.
Well the real privacy issue this week is Path and Hipster and reportedly more iOS apps have been ganking people's phone contacts and generating massive contact lists.
I read the "apology" from path. Apparently their entire program was about a 'personal' 'private' social network, yet, they're already violating people's privacy, so it's not really off too a good start. I think I'd heard of path like once before this, and I'm sure I'll never use their products now. Plus the picture in the apology makes him look like a completely annoying hipster as well.

Anyway, for all of BP's winging about security on android it does seem like it's pretty easy for iphone apps to get contact lists without permission. People said that they didn't authorize the apps to do that, and on android it would be impossible to get those contacts without granting permission to access that data on install. You see exactly what permissions an app needs before you install it, and most don't ask for personal data. If they do, you can choose not to install it.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Again, they only know what you tell them.

Don't leave a trail, don't re-use nicknames, don't make references.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:32 PM on February 8, 2012


Yeah, Big Brother will pay to watch what you do. Where do I sign? Want my soul too?
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:34 PM on February 8, 2012


In the vacuum of privacy law, it is easier to monetize PrivacyPlus.

I bet that will help you buy your way in to "Selected for Special Security Screening."
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:37 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Incognito" windows do nothing when your Internet gateway watches what you're doing. Your regular router now sees everything; it just doesn't send it all back to somebody else.

The only thing that the incognito mode ever does is not save anything onto your own computer once the browser is closed.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:38 PM on February 8, 2012


$20 a month is a pittance to anybody who makes a decent wage, especially for something as valuable as YOUR ENTIRE GODDAMN IDENTITY. So basically they're gonna get the browsing habits of a buncha poor people. I guess this is valuable, because poor people are the most likely to spend their money and the least likely to save it. That browsing data will then be funneled to payday loan providers, alcohol producers, and lottery ticket distributors : basically all the people who keep the poor people poor. Those poor people, in turn, will need to sell their browsing data to Google to pay for booze, lotto tickets, and interest on their payday loans. And on and on ad infinitum.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:38 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


So poor people just buy booze, lotto tickets and use payday loans? Are you Mitt Romney?

A bunch of non-poor people give away their where they are at this very moment for free. I would think the kind of person that doesn't care about their privacy and loves to be the Mayor of the coffee shop wouldn't mind $20 put on their Kindle every month for doing this.

If ENTIRE GODDAMN IDENTITY can be summarized by your unencrypted web traffic, I think you need to get our more. As I mentioned above, everything Google/Facebook is collecting on me is tied to a person that doesn't exist.
posted by birdherder at 8:03 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I should think the local ISP has far more hypothetical power over me than Google, just by keeping track of what I do on the Net - and there's no opt-out that can stop the ISP from quietly logging stuff. At least Google is being up front and compensating people for the privilege of snooping on 'em.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:10 PM on February 8, 2012


So poor people just buy booze, lotto tickets and use payday loans? Are you Mitt Romney?

I did not say that.

However, I *am* saying those may be the parties who would be most interested in the browsing habits of poor people.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:11 PM on February 8, 2012


I just wrote this up elsewhere. It's really not worth tying into the privacy policy changes (totally unrelated), which themselves weren't worth getting worked up about at all (other recent moves maybe, but not those). This is some straight Nielsen-style data scraping, voluntary and compensated. Google at least is asking; Comcast isn't.

I wonder how using an incognito window effects this.

It's in the "leaked" info (the email sent out to potential participants): your incognito data is recorded and aggregated separately, unconnected to your account or identity.

Of course all this must be taken at Google's word, but that's a whole other debate, and one not specific to Google.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:17 PM on February 8, 2012


Is it just me, or has Google gotten all kinda, I dunno, "squirrelly" lately.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:23 PM on February 8, 2012


This appears to me to be the case of who is going to have the best de-anonymized map of society.

Facebook has the best Western version of this. They have (because they started with) a more dis-anonymizing policy than Google or any of the other non-Governmental small-fry. You can have what you think is anonymous profile with a fake name, but be amazed when that profile starts to suggest - as possible friends - people from your real identity. They are writing to datasets - which have an indeterminate expiration policy - data which specifically contain information about who you know and where you know them from. With the Facebook Mobile app, it's a checkbox or install-decision-question away from mapping profiles with other, more concrete data. The "like" button on non-Facebook properties and that "use your Facebook login to connect to our site" are other methods to link you with real anchor data. Are you a company or artist? Well, the data they show about you may be more one-way, but the data they collect about you is most certainly two-way. Facebook knows who likes your favorite artist or companion or revolutionary, and also who they like enough to connect with their real identity.

Google has all of the services, but less of a dis-anonymizing policy. They are trying to de-anonymize their data. See Google+'s policy on real names, and this recent unification of terms of service.

There are several ad networks that have this kind of aggregated usage data, and some of them rely on tricks within CSS, javascript, cookies and even plug-in cookies (I'm looking at you, Flash) to figure out who you are in relation to other sites. Eventually, your browsing data can be related to your actual identity with pretty amazing accuracy.

Despite intentionally giving up my privacy online by using my entire actual name on just about every internet service out there, I run Ghostery and Click-to-Plugin and with my cookies at the per-site approval basis. This is the kind of connection data that shouldn't be up to each company's privacy policy, and it sure as shit shouldn't be so hard to opt out of all of it. Protecting this kind of data should be a constitutional amendment in enlightened societies.

Dieblevert has it above: it's the capacity. Each of these networks wants to have the best social map. This data, when properly analyzed, is useful EVERYWHERE - to companies, investors, governments.

Every single one of these companies is trying to be the join table between your real data and anonymized data.
posted by tomierna at 8:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


@stitcherbeast

why
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:31 PM on February 8, 2012


How does one sign up for the $20/month deal?
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:34 PM on February 8, 2012


Just enter your bank account information into the search box, they'll take it from there.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:38 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


However, I *am* saying those may be the parties who would be most interested in the browsing habits of poor people.

I find your premise that only poor people would be interested in participating false. $20 a month is a better reward. You have to spend $1000 to get that back from most credit cards.

I would think that Google would want to put quotas on this program so they can make the data projectable to the market at large so it won't, as you suggest, a land of people exploiting the poor.
posted by birdherder at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2012


Imagine someone died and google used the Screenwise data to make a recreation of that person made from everything they would know. One could then google the dead person's memories and personality. Of course, the googled dead person would advertise products that they would have enjoyed when they were alive.
posted by fuq at 8:42 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


As I mentioned above, everything Google/Facebook is collecting on me is tied to a person that doesn't exist.

really?
posted by kuatto at 8:52 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find your premise that only poor people would be interested in participating false. $20 a month is a better reward. You have to spend $1000 to get that back from most credit cards.

False comparison. I was gonna use the credit card anyway. The cash back thing is a minor bonus that card providers use to entice you away from others' cards, because they're all pretty damn similar. The equivalent of the toaster you'd get from a bank for opening up a new account, back when savings interest rates were regulated.

Bottom line is that my private browsing data is something I wouldn't give away for ANY price. I dunno, maybe for 100K a year. But only because, for that price, I'd only use my computer to browse for completely innocuous stuff, and do all my real browsing on my phone. Or something.

And I don't buy the whole "they're getting that information from you anyway" argument. I mean, shit, if you really wanted to, you could probably find out anything you wanted to about me. Some of that you could piece together from my writing on MeFi. Some of that, you'd need to be DoubleClick to know about. Some of it, you'd need to hire a private investigator to find out. Some of it, you'd need my personal passwords for. Bottom line is, I'll be damned if I'm gonna make it easier for anybody.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:53 PM on February 8, 2012


"Incognito" windows do nothing when your Internet gateway watches what you're doing. Your regular router now sees everything; it just doesn't send it all back to somebody else.
that you know of. And anyway, your ISP is upstream and can see all that stuff anyway.
As I mentioned above, everything Google/Facebook is collecting on me is tied to a person that doesn't exist.,
And your IP address.
posted by delmoi at 9:07 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it just me, or has Google gotten all kinda, I dunno, "squirrelly" lately.

It is'nt just you. None, and I mean none, of their new stuff works in IE 8. They are not lazy, or stupid, so I assume it is intentional.

Part of what seems like massive changes is just a change in direction due to a new management team. They really do seem to be making misstep after misstep recently.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:11 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is Google attempting to compete with both comScore MediaMetrix, and Nielsen NetRatings. These are the two main sources of syndicated online measurement used by North American marketers and advertisers. We like to know who is visiting which sites, and what they are doing, so we can decide where to place advertising.

In the past, Google has tried to sell aggregated data from toolbar users, but what they really need is a panel built around a representative sample of the online population (based on the US census), along the lines of what comScore and Nielsen already provide.

I'm assuming there will be some sort of screening process involved in becoming part of either tracking method, and Google will be requiring participants to provide some additional demographic data. The third parties involved in this scenario will be people like the large agency I work for. If you don't want to be involved in this, then don't sign up. If you don't want to be advertised to, use AdBlock or similar plug-ins.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:30 PM on February 8, 2012


Welp, this certainly doesn't sound like a thing that will surely end up being used for evil at all.

/runs off into the sunset, laughing hysterically
posted by clavier at 9:35 PM on February 8, 2012


This is exactly how it should be. Instead of being less than forthright about data collection, make it like the Neilsen boxes and pay people who are not as concerned about this to share their surfing data.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 PM on February 8, 2012


How does one sign up for the $20/month deal?

It appears to be invite only.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:59 PM on February 8, 2012


The government seems to reading everyone's mail and internet traffic for free, why not get paid for the loss of privacy?

Not for me.
posted by arcticseal at 10:02 PM on February 8, 2012


Google used to be run by visionary geeks. It is now run by advertising people.

This is becoming more apparent with each announcement. I, for one, would like to say "piss off" to our new marketing overlords.
posted by iotic at 11:34 PM on February 8, 2012


Wall Street is like the mob. Fuck You, pay me.

If you want to stay pure don't go public.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:26 AM on February 9, 2012


If you want to stay pure don't go public.

It'll be interesting times when post-IPO Facebook does the same 180'. For them, that would probably be a 360', though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: No one's forcing anyone ... Not until the middlemen, Comcast et al. want their cut, at which point this monitoring stuff could easily become a condition for basic internet service, unless you pay extra to opt out.

"The revelation that ISP’s like Comcast are selling your clickstream data has got a little attention."
posted by Pronoiac at 1:57 AM on February 9, 2012


The Nielsen analogy is specious. Your internet activity is far more personal and revealing than your TV viewing habits.
posted by twirlip at 2:31 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't leave a trail, don't re-use nicknames, don't make references.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:32 PM on February 8 [+] [!]


Incognosterical!
posted by chavenet at 2:42 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing that Facebook has and the best Google products do well at is providing service in return for divulging information. With Facebook or Gmail, I pass information to friends in a relatively convenient manner and can thus have interesting interactions. In return, the company gets to skim off whatever it finds useful. With this or really even Google+, on the other hand, Google has not done a very good job making an argument about what I get out of the deal other than targeted ads. I think that the company is going to literally pay people for internet tracking information is a fairly good indication that they don't really have an answer, either. I would really like to see Google make an argument for what ambitious, awesome new things I will be able to do as a result of a greatly expanded dataset. I'm sure the engineers want to deliver cool things far more than yet more focused ads, so this really should be a do-able task.
posted by Schismatic at 3:24 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't sign up for 20 bucks a month, but if they could swing a deal with TicketMaster or similar that, twice a year I could pick any performance I want and be guaranteed the ability to purchase two tickets to it, I might be interested.

If the tracking is really doing its job, it should know what bands and performers I'm interested in anyways. "We see you like Tom Waits and think you'd want to be assured of getting tickets when he comes to your town. Click here to spend your TicketChit and lock them in!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:36 AM on February 9, 2012


To follow up on my previous comment, this is something that already exists. Both Nielsen and comScore maintain panels of between 50,000 and 200,000 individuals, balanced to match the general population. As a marketer, I don't care what you specifically do online (if you're anything like me, it's probably mostly porn). I care what men 18-34 do online; or what women 25-54 with two or more kids, and a household income of $75,000+, who purchase a new cell phone every 1.5 years do online. When this data is provided to us (one of the third parties in question) it is aggregated anonymized- that's how it is useful to us. Even law enforcement would not be able to do much with this sort of data, other than make very general profiles of online activity, and collect information on actual panelists (which is really only an issue for people who sign up to be part of the panel, any criminal activity they may take part in online, and the privacy statements in Googles terms and conditions for panelists).

Google has done a lot of shitty things recently, but this is not one of them. In this case, they are simply trying to catch up with the current state of online measurement. Google has a content network (essentially an aggregation of digital advertising inventory from their properties, as well as purchased from others) that they sell in the form of both adwords and display advertising. This is the same thing as what the major portals (Yahoo, MSN, etc.) as well as large content aggregators (ValueClick, Tribal Fusion, etc.) have been doing for ages. They need to be able to profile the characteristics and behaviors of the audiences that visit content within their network, in order to better sell the inventory; and they need to provide marketers with tools in order to plan campaigns and track their delivery and effectiveness. Google would rather not pay a third party (Nielsen or comScore) to be able to do this, so they are building their own panel. This will affect non-panelists very little.

If you do not wish to take part in this initiative, I encourage you not to sign up for it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:51 AM on February 9, 2012


fuq: "Imagine someone died and google used the Screenwise data to make a recreation of that person made from everything they would know. One could then google the dead person's memories and personality. Of course, the googled dead person would advertise products that they would have enjoyed when they were alive."

Stop Philip K Dicking around!
posted by symbioid at 8:06 AM on February 9, 2012


Your internet activity is far more personal and revealing than your TV viewing habits.

Well, feel free to not sign up for this completely voluntary program, then.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:04 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This makes me wonder what metafilter is doing with our highly private posting information. Why isn't anyone taking them to task over the uses they're putting our confidential posting histories to?
posted by happyroach at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2012


Well, I have my comments here marked as visible only to logged-in users on my white-list (if you're reading this, I guess I must trust you -- congrats!). I've excluded all the admins, so I assume that means I'm safe from prying eyes, no? I suggest you do the same if you're at all worried about privacy.
posted by nobody at 11:03 AM on February 9, 2012


The only thing that the incognito mode ever does is not save anything onto your own computer once the browser is closed.

Yeah, no shit the incognito window doesn't do anything beyond effecting what your computer does and doesn't keep. It says that right on the open tab of a new IG window. Thanks for explaining it to me in a condescending manner, however.

I'm curious how the IG window effects what the chrome extension sees which is being discussed in this very thread, you know, the thing that we're talking about?
posted by codacorolla at 11:25 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Imagine someone died and google used the Screenwise data to make a recreation of that person made from everything they would know. One could then google the dead person's memories and personality. .

Hey, you're other guy who watched Caprica!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:34 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This makes me wonder what metafilter is doing with our highly private posting information.

Other than letting me see the comments you post publicly?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2012


I read the "apology" from path. Apparently their entire program was about a 'personal' 'private' social network, yet, they're already violating people's privacy, so it's not really off too a good start. I think I'd heard of path like once before this, and I'm sure I'll never use their products now. Plus the picture in the apology makes him look like a completely annoying hipster as well.

Is this the 'hey, ignore google, look at Path' defense? For an intelligent overview of the Path situation from someone that actually uses iOS, programs for iOS (a competing app even), who doesn't hate apple, who has actually used Path, and who doesn't base their opinion on a picture, read One of My Mistakes by Brent Simmons.

It's disappointing to see Path make this mistake, but the experience on Path is so superior to Facebook or any other social network (in design and privacy) that I'll get it another chance.

android it does seem like it's pretty easy for iphone apps to get contact lists without permission. People said that they didn't authorize

Yep, and I'm sure that will be fixed in an update. That's how this stuff works. When all is said and done, I'll trust Apple before Google + whatever carrier.

$20 a month is a pittance to anybody who makes a decent wage, especially for something as valuable as YOUR ENTIRE GODDAMN IDENTITY. So basically they're gonna get the browsing habits of a buncha poor people.

Of course. But if you accept it at face value you could say Google is helping out poor people. Don't be evil.
posted by justgary at 12:18 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm curious how the IG window effects what the chrome extension sees which is being discussed in this very thread, you know, the thing that we're talking about?

Well, incognito mode disables any extensions I have installed, but Google could probably find a way around that.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:43 PM on February 9, 2012


When all is said and done, I'll trust Apple before Google + whatever carrier.


...why?
posted by adamdschneider at 2:45 PM on February 9, 2012


Well, feel free to not sign up for this completely voluntary program, then.

I don't have a problem with this Screenwise program. Control resides with the user, as it should. I just think it's meaningfully different from recording your TV-watching habits. I think most people underestimate how much their online activity reveals about them.
posted by twirlip at 9:24 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this the 'hey, ignore google, look at Path' defense? For an intelligent overview of the Path situation from someone that actually uses iOS, programs for iOS (a competing app even), who doesn't hate apple, who has actually used Path, and who doesn't base their opinion on a picture, read One of My Mistakes by Brent Simmons.
Oh please, I read that. There is an enormous difference between stealing someone's phone book from their phone and referrer spamming (the authors 'mistake'), which is just a minor annoyance for webmasters. It's a major violation.

And honestly, why does it matter if the guy is an iOS developer? Anyone with a phone can understand what it means to have their contact list uploaded without permission. The opinion of someone in a similar situation to the Path CEO is actually less interesting.

Remember a couple years ago when a school was caught spying on students by turning on the webcam on the computers they had given them? An administrator from another nearby school showed up saying it was no big deal. In fact, it ended up being a pretty major deal, with the FBI involved, etc (I don't remember if any criminal charges were laid or what, but it was a possibility for a while)

When you're too close to something, it can be difficult to see that what's easy for you to do might be wrong.
posted by delmoi at 11:50 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Nielsen analogy is specious. Your internet activity is far more personal and revealing than your TV viewing habits.
Yeah, but this is totally opt in, and you get paid. Anyone who signs up for this probably doesn't have any interesting habits anyway.
With this or really even Google+, on the other hand, Google has not done a very good job making an argument about what I get out of the deal other than targeted ads. I think that the company is going to literally pay people for internet tracking information is a fairly good indication that they don't really have an answer, either. I would really like to see Google make an argument for what ambitious, awesome new things I will be able to do as a result of a greatly expanded dataset.
I actually like G+. I filled it up with people from metafilter during the land rush phase, and there are lots of interesting things posted there. It's not that great but it's at least interesting enough for me to log in and see what's going on. On the other hand I couldn't care less about what's in my Facebook stream. It's just random people I knew in highschool.

With the new privacy policy -- which I'm not at all a fan of, by the way -- they're just taking data they already have about and collating it. You're already giving them the data, presumably in exchange for something you want (like watching youtube videos, search, whatever)

Still, it would be better if they didn't correlate all that data. They're obviously feeling the heat from Facebook, but their reaction has been to become more like Facebook, rather then focusing on the fact that people had a lot of trust in them. It's ironic that people thought getting rid of the old CEO (Eric Schmidt) would actually improve google's commitment to 'not be evil', since Schmidt kept on saying randomly creepy stuff. Instead, things seem to have gotten worse.
posted by delmoi at 11:59 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


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