Google Screenwise: New Program Pays You To Give Up Privacy & Surf The Web With Chrome

Google is quietly taking requests from web users who want to get paid to surf the web using the Chrome browser while sharing data with Google. The program is called Screenwise and, though we’re not aware of any official announcement, Google has a signup page at

The page explains that Google wants to create a panel of people to help it “learn more about how everyday people use the Internet.” It explains that panel members have to be at least 13 years old, have (or sign up for) a Google account and use the Chrome web browser. They also have to be willing to let Google track their web surfing activity:

As a 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.

In exchange for that, panel members get a $5 Amazon gift card code for installing the browser extension, and then can earn another $5 Amazon code for every three months that they continue in the Screenwise program. The sign-up page advertises a $25 max total payment, but the fine print says Google will decide later what payment, if any, will be given for panelists who continue longer than a year.

Amazon isn’t involved in the promotion; Google says it’s using the online research firm Knowledge Networks as its “panel management partner” for Screenwise.

The timing of this program seems odd, especially considering the backlash that Google has faced over the upcoming changes to its privacy policy. Even though this Screenwise program is completely opt-in, some critics are bound to question why Google needs more data about web searchers and the websites they visit.

We’ve reached out to Google for more information about the Screenwise panel/program and we’ll update this article if we learn more.

(tip via @centernetworks)

Postscript, February 8: Google has replied to us with this official statement about the Screenwise program:

“Like many other web and media companies, we do panel research to help better serve our users by learning more about people’s media use, on the web and elsewhere. This panel is one such small project that started near the beginning of the year. Of course, this is completely optional to join. People can choose to participate if it’s of interest (or if the gift appeals) and everyone who does participate has complete transparency and control over what Internet use is being included in the panel. People can stay on the panel as long as they’d like, or leave at any time.”

Postscript #2, February 8: It appears this isn’t the only piece of Google’s Screenwise program. As Ars Technica has learned, there’s a more extensive version of the program in which web surfers participate by installing a “high-end router” called the Screenwise Data Collector.

Ars Technica has several images of the signup process and legalese for the Screenwise program, including this shot of the data collection device.


(image via Ars Technica)

This version of Screenwise pays better: $100 on signup, plus $20 per month up to one year’s involvement.

The legalese also reveals that Google may share the data it collects with “academic institutions, advertisers, publishers and programming networks,” in addition to sharing it with Knowledge Networks, the program’s manager. Google says that “generally” its data won’t be linked to individual users, but it “may share anonymized individual-level Panelist data with academic research institutions.” It also says that “Google will attempt to remove personally identifiable information before sharing Panel Data with third parties.”

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Chrome | Google: Privacy | Google: Screenwise | Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • George Bounacos

    Super timely news, Matt. Thanks for this. I just had an intense privacy conversation with someone who asked me how Google would start packaging its data with opt-in permission to become a warehouse. I would say that this is one step in the right direction.

    I can’t imagine the skewing that occurs based on who takes an offer to have their browsing history captured at a rate of 5.5 cents per day. I’m sure there will be all sorts of games and incentives to compare yourself to your Plus circles and other ways to goose different groups of folks to engage.

    What impresses is that this is the very first step Google (or any of the engines except Bing’s shot at it) for compensating consumers for data the consumer most often believes belongs to them.

    Great grist for the mill on a Wednesday!

  • Mary

    Clutch insight Matt!

    For me, it seems Google is pretty transparent about all of their updates to search to date, with SPYW, and the new privacy policy.

    @ Goerge, I definitely agree that this is a laudable move on the part of Google to try and reward the user. However, you are right in thinking that the data will be skewed dependent on those who opt-in. Any scientific study relies on random sampling, otherwise the results would be deemed unreliable.

    @ Matt, what type of users do you think Screenwise will attract, and how will that affect how Google looks at user preferences?

  • Bryan Schindelheim

    Hey @Google, do Screenwise panel clicks violate Adsense TOS?

    “To ensure a positive experience for Internet users and Google advertisers, sites displaying Google ads may not:
    Use third-party services that generate clicks or impressions such as paid-to-click, paid-to-surf, autosurf and click-exchange programs.”

  • C.A.

    Its a nice news shared because it is good to know that now their will be a panel which will take an eye to that what we are opening and how we ar using that site and for what purpose sop its great and the age limit is also good that is declared for any account.

  • jemin desai

    its like GOOGLE WILL SELL YOU to anyone……

    Google is also now planning to get more $$$$ by selling the data to third party….. As per Google its pay $20/month to user up to one year…. then think how much Google Plan to earn by selling data?

    And another thing is what steps Google will consider before selling data to third party? from current view i think if any one want the data about any things they just need to pay $$$ to Google and Google will sell you.. not your data….

    And as per this announcement Google will not become transparent for them project but they just tell all of us that we are also money making company… and we will also sell your data like others….

  • Madgundi Venkatesh

    Oh…! Great another preparation of online income program by Google. If Google trying to stop SOPA then why ultimately telling Internet need SOPA Act with this program. Offering Google screenwise program ultimately that Google wants to collect data because he wants to filter our data from better online experience program.

    One more time…! Google proves that we are not the user but we are the customers for them

  • George Novak

    This seems a good idea at first glance, but like many things from Goggle it has become a mess. First, the payout amount ranges anywhere from $10 to $100. I received a recent mailer which stated $40 at first, then $20 per month. The official terms and conditions on the other hand only stated $10 per month (and that was dependent on “Goggle subcontractors”). There was also a lot of gray area about what sort of equipment I had to install and my responsibilities concerning that equipment. A “high end router” could be worth $1,000 or more, and I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be on the hook if something happened to it. Also, this equipment is happily consuming your electricity and internet bandwidth 7×24 while you get $10 a month (maybe). Doesn’t sound like a good deal when you think about it. Now $100 and $20 month may be a better enticement, but their contract needs to state that amount. I would also need a waiver of responsibility towards their equipment before I accept it. As always, your mileage may vary, but be sure you under stand the risks. – George

  • jengonz

    I signed up for screen wise and am still waiting for the start up money of a 100 not thrilled my wireless is always going down due to the modem I am very temped  to put my old router back in. Book

  • jtrn

    We got our start money but I think it was only $40….and we have gotten I think 1 check for $20 since starting this….I didnt sign up, my husband did….call me crazy but I HAVE noticed and increase of 800 # calls since this started as well…..

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