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Online Privacy Worth Less Than Marshmallow Fluff Six Pack 223

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-about-right dept.
nonprofiteer writes "With a program called Screenwise, Google is offering a total of $25 in Amazon gift cards to anyone willing to install a Chrome browser extension that will let the search giant track every website the user visits and what they do there over a year-long period. Google says it will study this in order to improve its products and services. Forbes points out that $25 in Amazon credits isn't quite enough to buy a six pack of Marshmallow Fluff ($26.75)." The money isn't much as a pure trade for privacy, but I suspect that many people would like to have their preferences be among those that shape how Google — and other companies, too — actually organize their interfaces. (Note that the tracking can be selectively turned off by the user.)
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Online Privacy Worth Less Than Marshmallow Fluff Six Pack

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  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:32PM (#38986163)

    This is one of those statements we need to hear from time to time to shock is into realizing that the vast majority of people out there do not value online privacy to the degree that the Slashdot crowd generally does.

    The vast majority of people out there probably rank "letting a company mine my browsing history" somewhere around "filling out a survey".

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The vast majority of people are too stupid to see the difference. That doesn't mean there's not an important difference. If the vast majority of people jumped off a cliff, would you too?

      • They aren't too stupid, they just haven't been exposed to enough of the underlying framework of the world to know there is one.
      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:40PM (#38986313)

        I don’t equate it to stupidity. It’s not that people don’t understand the implications of this. It’s made fairly clear.. “every site you visit will be known to us”. It comes down to having different priorities.

        The Slashdot crowd is privacy sensitive. It’s important to us. The fact that it’s not important to others is something we have to learn to accept. We can’t always write it off as “well, they are just stupid.. if only we could explain it to them in the right way..” because they have a valid opinion. They’ve chosen to live a certain way, and privacy is not a priority to them.

        • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:47PM (#38986463) Journal

          âoewell, they are just stupid.. if only we could explain it to them in the right way..â because they have a valid opinion. Theyâ(TM)ve chosen to live a certain way, and privacy is not a priority to them.

          We can tell this is not the case, because when people get bitten by the obvious consequences of surrendering their privacy, they complain. If they knew and expected those consequences, they wouldn't be bothered when it happens. And yet we still hear stupid people complain about how facebook shared their data in a way they don't approve of. Tough shit, that's what you signed up for.

          • by Anrego (830717) *

            And yet we still hear stupid people complain about how facebook shared their data in a way they don't approve of.

            I actually don't see this happening. Not saying it hasn't, I've just never really seen it. Occasionally I'll hear one of my non-geek friends state "ya know, facebook owns everything you put there" .. but it's stated in more of an "interesting trivia" manner than a outraged "stop using facebook" manner (for the record, I'm the stubourn friend without the facebook/twitter/etc in my social circles).

            The only people I hear complaining about facebooks no-privacy privacy policy are like minded geeks who know bette

            • by Hatta (162192)

              Of course, you're never going to hear about people who didn't get a job because of what HR found on Facebook. And if I hacked your credit card account with your mothers maiden name that I got off of your facebook page, how would you know? But you do, or at least I do, hear complaints about Facebook being used in divorce settlements. Or even just posting your vacation plans on Facebook can lead to your house getting burlarized [nj.com].

              • by Anrego (830717) *

                Life has risks. Given the large number of facebook users and the small number of cases where people are hurt in this manner, I'd equate this style of thinking to saying that people shouldn't drive cars because you hear about people dying in accidents all the time (for that matter, you car is also a pretty damn good indicator of whether you are home.. wouldn't take a criminal mastermind too much effort to figure out that my house is empty Monday to Friday for about 9 hours a day).

                Again, this is coming down t

          • by asylumx (881307)
            That's not true. Example: When people speed, they know damn well that they may get pulled over and ticketed. Yet, they speed anyway, and when they do get caught they complain that it was the cop who was in the wrong. They *do* know those consequences, they just expect them not to happen. Same thing with Privacy -- "Yeah, but it won't happen to me!"
            • by Hatta (162192)

              They *do* know those consequences, they just expect them not to happen

              Like I said, stupidity.

        • by Sir_Sri (199544)

          And, as a practical matter, the point of taking part in a survey or study is to give up that privacy so that they can make products that better reflect how you use them. Without that data it is harder, if not impossible, to actually make better products. Google developers are not typical examples of how people use the internet.

          We have this issue with games too. Trying to figure out who is a valid testing set is really hard. If I hand my game off to some 40 year old women I'll get different testing result

        • by meerling (1487879)
          I'm tempted to sign up for it, I'd like $25 gift card, I could get a book or two I want with that.
          Of course, it wouldn't be my actual desktop it would be installed on. It would either be one of the junker laptops I rarely use, or a virtual machine that is carefully monitored. Either way, it would see a totally boring, and possibly scripted, tour of common news and corporate websites as if it were done by a paranoid person who know they're being tracked.

          If this throws off their data, I would feel happy that
        • by jc42 (318812)

          Itâ(TM)s not that people donâ(TM)t understand the implications of this. Itâ(TM)s made fairly clear.. âoeevery site you visit will be known to usâ.

          Well, I was surprised by this story, because I've always just assumed that Chrome sends a log of what I do back to the Mother Ship at Google. I don't have the source code, so that's what I'd suspect. And even with this story out, I still suspect that it's reporting my surfing to someone I don't know of. It'd be easy enough for them to hide this among all the auto-refresh traffic, and so on.

          I don't use Chrome for online banking, mostly for this reason. There are several open-source browsers available

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gparent (1242548) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:47PM (#38986455)

        The vast majority of people might just do less weirdo shit on their computer than you? What exactly is wrong with Google having access to my entire search history with my consent? Microsoft Windows has a similar feature where you can turn on performance counters in the OS and aggregated data is then used to make features shaped more like the user wants them.

        It's not like they're saying "We'll read your entire search history, tough shit", they're offering people to willingly give them that information, and for the bother, they are compensated with a minor bonus.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          It's not like they're saying "We'll read your entire search history, tough shit"

          Which, they're probably doing anyway.

          Even if they don't admit it, I'm pretty sure Google already has this if you're searching while logged in.

          Their latest changes to their privacy policy really only amounts to "we can (and do) already do this, we're just making it clear to you".

          • Even if they don't admit it, I'm pretty sure Google already has this if you're searching while logged in.

            Uh, of course they do, and they do admit it; it's very clearly listed on their Privacy FAQ [google.com].

            What they're asking here is the list of all the websites you visit, coming from their search engines or not. That's why they need a browser extension.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        The vast majority of people are too stupid to see the difference. That doesn't mean there's not an important difference. If the vast majority of people jumped off a cliff, would you too?

        No, but that doesn't mean that I could stop them from jumping off a cliff with a well reasoned argument about why it's a stupid thing to do.

        That 'vast majority' simply aren't going to listen to you. They're simply not interested.

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Since I already did that, I guess the answer is YES. In my own defense, I didn't jump first because I'm terrified of falling, and the water was really cold.
    • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by eln (21727) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:35PM (#38986199) Homepage
      I'm surprised they even bothered to offer the gift cards. Most people will gladly give up their privacy for free.
    • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:35PM (#38986205) Journal
      I'd happily do this. Of course, I don't actually use Chrome, so after the extension was installed they wouldn't get very much useful information...
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        This is what I was thinking. Install the tool bar on a virtual machine version of chrome. Maybe even bring it up from time to time and browse some crazy mix of sites to screw around with their data. Do they send you the gift cart as soon as you install it? $25 may be a case of marshmallow fluff, but it's also 2 or 3 paperback books, or many other useful things. Sign up under 4 different aliases and you could probably easily have yourself $100.
    • by japhmi (225606)

      How about "letting a company mine my browsing history for a browser that I don't use."

      Sounds like $25 for installing something and letting it sit on my HD while I continue to use Firefox.

    • The vast majority of people out there probably rank "letting a company mine my browsing history" somewhere around "filling out a survey".

      I've actually stated the bit about the survey elsewhere in the thread. Okay, I'm part of the vast majority who doesn't value privacy the way Slashdotters typically do.

      So please educate me, I want to know: They're being up-front about what they want to do with it and they're compensating the volunteers for it. They can use another browser if they don't want Google to see something. So why is this worse than filling out a survey?

      No, I'm not setting up an argument, no I'm not defending them, I really just

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        I actually replied to someone else in this thread that I don't think this opinion is wrong or "stupid".

        Some (maybe most) people have chosen a lifestyle where privacy is not the big thing to protect at all costs. Stuff like this where as you said they aren't doing anything sneaky... I also have no problem with.

        I wasn't trying to imply that this was somehow worse than filling out a survey .. I meant that some view it at the same level of "I'm giving up X to get Y".

  • The vast majority of people don't know or care about the technologies they use in their daily lives.
    • by forkfail (228161)

      Funny thing, though - a lot of people would whip out the shotgun if someone was peeping in their window or reading their private journals.

      • by Lithdren (605362)
        Unless they invited said people to look in said window or read said journal, as is happening here.

        Its not like they're saying "We're doing this, and you cant stop us!" They're saying "If you're willing, we'll give this in exchange." Weather you find that exchange fair is one thing to debate, but dont try to drive the discussion to "spying" when they asked first, and give you something in return for the information.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:37PM (#38986235) Journal
    Since they got it so very wrong, wrong, wrong on the first go round.
  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:38PM (#38986249)
    If Google tracked me via Chrome, they would see 100% of all websites visited are *.netflix.com/*

    Yeah, thats all I use Chrome for.
  • Oh, but I only use chrome maybe once a blue moon. But hey, that's still data! Pay up!
  • Would I still get the $25 if I installed it and then did the majority of my surfing with IE/FF and occasionally surfed with Chrome, as there's probably some Terms of Service that requires a minimal amount of usage.

    I wonder how much money I could make if I created hundreds of VMs and installed the plugin in those...

    • That reminds me of how it used to be ok to make bots that automatically clicked your own pay to click ads.
    • by forkfail (228161)

      Already way ahead of your.

      I've got a pool contractor who will take credit at Amazon, and I'm buying enough Marshmallow Fluff to fill my new pool and go swimming in it.

  • They also pay you $100 up front and $20 dollars a month for up to a year. For a low income family that could nearly cover the cost of their broadband internet.
    • Where did you get that information? I don't see any reference to payments other than the aforementioned up to $25 in Amazon.com gift cards anywhere.

  • You're looking at this wrong; it's not that privacy is valued too cheaply- it's that Marshmallow fluff 6-packs are valued too highly.

  • by sootman (158191) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:42PM (#38986367) Homepage Journal

    "Online Privacy Worth More Than Marshmallow Fluff Five Pack"

    See? It's a glass half full/half-empty kinda thing.

  • Great idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Megahard (1053072) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:42PM (#38986369)
    I'm installing it on the wife's computer.
    • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:49PM (#38986507)

      Install it on the library computer.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:47PM (#38986449) Homepage

    "The money isn't much as a pure trade for privacy, but I suspect that many people would like to have their preferences be among those that shape how Google — and other companies, too — actually organize their interfaces."

    Here's my proposed experiment. Make 2 offers:
    (A) We track what you watch for a year, we will NOT use it to shape any interfaces, you get $25.
    (B) We track what you watch for a year, we WILL use it to shape any interfaces, you get $0.

    My bet would be that the ratio of acceptances would be at least 10:1 in favor of (A).
    I only see "being tracked is great as long as I get more targeted advertising" as a claim from Slashdotters.

  • Note that the tracking can be selectively turned off by the user.

    Prove it.

  • I wasn't really sure what this stuff was so had to look it up.

    Apparently one jar of the stuff is a lifetime's supply. So having your privacy being worth 5 whole lifetimes is a pretty good valuation.

  • I hate this trend! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by governorx (524152) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:52PM (#38986567)

    Dear Google,

    I am not the average user. I am a technical user that is intelligent and values privacy. Please make me a google that gives relevant technical results for my queries instead of the hodge-podge that the average illiterate user can understand and click-through. xxx-answer or some similar should never be a result.

    The results from the 25$ incentive will most likely be skewed in an unfavourable direction when compared to the search results I am looking for - due to the demographic (which I foresee) partaking in this research experiment. Please reconsider.

    Signed: The guy that is always finding google harder and harder to use.

    PS - Give me the option to search using an older algorithm.

  • That will a fetch handle of rum or a 1.5 liter of vodka.

    Most people will happily surrender tons of personal, and incriminating, information about themselves when offered or plied with aforementioned liquid.

    So it's same old same old, just now with no hangover!

  • People are willing to give up their privacy if it saves them 10% at Petco.

    What's to stop you from taking their money and only using Chrome to visit a few websites?

  • I would never do it, but at least it starts to give people an idea of how much google values their privacy and they can then ask themselves if their privacy is really more valuable than what google is able to get out of it.

    I would like to propose the reverse program - I pay google $5 month in return for never, ever being tracked at all no matter how many of their services I use. Not the typical BS of still tracking but not actually "using" the collected info, I mean the people who pay get their info logged

  • You don't even get 25.00 up front, you get 5 dollars, and then every 3 months, they give you 5 more dollars. Anyone who signs up for this is my enemy.
  • The money isn't much as a pure trade for privacy, but I suspect that many people would like to have their preferences be among those that shape how Google â" and other companies, too â" actually organize their interfaces. (Note that the tracking can be selectively turned off by the user.)

    They're being told up front what is being offered in exchange for what. It's a browser extension so they could just flip to Opera or FireFox if they don't want Google to see. Some people might be enticed by Google improving their products with that information, and they get paid for it.

    What's the drama? What does this even have to do with privacy? Are we going to complain about being paid to take a survey, too?

    • Then by all means sign up for it.
    • by forkfail (228161)

      I'm thinking that the primary source of the outrage is the fact that now there's been a dollar value assigned to your privacy, and that value is $25.00 at Amazon (which probably costs Google $20, because Amazon makes money off of shipping and such...)

      I'm sure there's other reasons that are a bit more meta when it comes to privacy and how it's treated as well.

  • by Jethro (14165)

    Frankly I'm a bit more shocked at how much marshmallow fluff costs. Whatever the hell marshmallow fluff is...

  • It's a pretty subjective thing. I'll willingly tell anyone who really wants to know all sorts of things that others consider private (the colour of my underwear, various sex related things), but feel a little protective of all sorts of things. I'll rarely share my Slashdot username with anyone who knows my real name and vice versa.

    I'll readily accept that some people really genuinely don't care at all about being spied on, and as long as they accept that I do, I have no quarrel with these people. I a
  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @04:04PM (#38986807) Homepage

    Am I the only one who remembers the study that found people would give up their passwords for a chocolate bar?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3639679.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    (and that a good percentage didn't even need the chocolate)

  • I'd pay that cost yearly for Google to guarantee to not track my registered identities (work, personal). If that's the price they put on it, sure!

  • Amazon is going to pay me 2 cents a day to know my private business. Gee what bargain!
  • New nomenclature (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @04:41PM (#38987425)

    Since the big corporations have, wrongly, labeled copyright infringement with "piracy", perhaps we should consider to label corporate privacy intrusion with the term "voyeurism" or something similar.

  • It should read, "What's left of your online privacy is not worth a six-pack of marshmallow fluff."
  • So I install this, collect my $25 and continue to not use Chrome just as I have for years now. Sounds like a good deal to me.
  • by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @05:28PM (#38988161)
    Marshmallow Fluff? If you're going to give yourself up to Google like this you need to think big. For $25 you could buy 2500 (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints [amazon.com] from Poster Revolution via Amazon. Not only do you exchange your measly $25 for $2,500, you also wind up with enough posters to cover 16722 square meters. That's over four acres. You'll never have to buy wallpaper again!

    And better yet, those (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints look sort of like real money, so maybe Amazon will accept them as legal tender, and you can exchange your $2500 for 250000 (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints, then exchange those for 25000000 (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints, exchange those for 2500000000 (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints, exchange those for 250000000000 (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints, exchange those for 25000000000000 (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints, and suddenly you've got enough (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints to cover the Earth with a layer of (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints almost four (24x36) The Godfather Movie (Dollar Bill) Poster Prints deep. Thanks to Google and Amazon/Poster Revolution, all of your mad genius-destroy-the-Earth desires can be realized!
  • Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guttentag (313541) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @07:33PM (#38989765) Journal
    1. install the Chrome browser extension
    2. Create the following AppleScript and use a cron job to run it once a month or so:

    tell application "Google Chrome"
    set URL of active tab of window 1 to "http://www.google.com"
    activate
    quit
    end tell

    3. Make Firefox your default browser
    4. Profit!
    5. Repeat steps one through four on another computer

    Why does this seem oddly like mining bitcoins...

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