In today’s social media age, there is a constant barrage of data being passed around. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have more of your personal information on file than they know what to do with. What they use all this data for is a mystery to me but I’m sure it’s very valuable. Video on demand and DVR type services have eliminated a large chunk of the advertising space on television, so companies are turning to the internet more and more. I sometimes get paid $3 when people click on certain ads and that seems like a pretty ridiculous amount for something that probably won’t lead to a sale. When was the last time you clicked on an ad and actually bought something?
The online platform does allow companies to tailor their ads towards individuals and target certain types of buyers. Have you ever seen a Google ad for an item you were just looking at on another site like Amazon or Wal-Mart? If you’re looking for a stainless steel refrigerator on Amazon, Amazon will drop a ‘cookie’ in your browser for this item and the next time you visit a site with Google ads you might just see an advertisement for this refrigerator. Creepy, huh?
$5 For My Privacy
A couple months ago, I received an interesting offer from Google to install a Chrome extension called Screenwise. Screenwise would monitor my browsing behavior for three months and in exchange I would get a $5 gift card. The offer sounded pretty good to me at the time, but then I thought about all the sites I visit on a daily basis. I might visit 20 or 30 sites on an average day and I’m sure there are people who surf a lot more than me. Do I really want Google knowing about all the sites I visit? Not for five stinkin’ dollars!
Honestly, I don’t care much about my privacy in matters like this, but five bucks seems like nothing for a gold mine of data. Google won’t be able to find out my name or where I live but even if they did, how would that really affect me? I mean there might be a few sites I don’t want them to know I’m visiting but there’s always incognito mode for that! I opted not to sign up for Screenwise because that browsing data is valuable and Google’s going to have to pay for it if they want it.
What Sites Do I Give My Data To?
There are plenty of services that I do use that gather data in exchange for a certain service or product. Sites like Mint have an entire record of every financial transaction I make on a monthly basis, but in exchange I get an awesome budgeting software, and a convenient platform to check my transactions daily. I know Mint likes to advertise itself as a free service, but trust me, you’re paying for it with all the personal information you’re giving up. In this case, I think it’s worth it though because they provide a service that I could not do on my own.
Going forward, you will probably start to see more and more of these data for money/service type exchanges. I recently wrote about a promotion between Amex and Twitter that asks you to sync your American Express card to your Twitter account. In exchange, you get offers like $20 off $200 purchases at Best Buy, or $10 off $50 gift card purchases. This information could be invaluable to a site like Twitter that depends on advertising to turn a profit, so you have to decide if the deals they offer in exchange are worth it to you.
I don’t think my personal data is too valuable, so I’m willing to accept most of these data for cash offers, but some might not want all their personal info out in the open because it is a little bit big brother-ish. So be careful when you’re out there on the internet, but know that these offers will keep coming and there’s not a whole lot you can do sometimes.
- Have you ever traded your privacy for money or a ‘free service’ like Mint or Credit Sesame?
- Do you find it creepy when you see a personalized ad on Facebook or Google Ads?
- What would you have to be paid to sign up for Screenwise for three months? For me it’s probably about $20.
About the author: Harry Campbell lives in San Diego, CA where he works as an aerospace engineer, volleyball coach and financial blogger, in that order. On his personal finance and real estate blog, Your Personal Finance Pro, he talks about everything from saving money at Chipotle to investing in index funds and real estate. His blog is geared towards young professionals, but there are life hacks and investing tips and tricks for all ages.