Updated: Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is willing to pay online surfers to browse the Web and share data about their travels with the search-engine giant.
The company has begun soliciting users for its Screenwise program, in which it will pay Chrome users in Amazon gift cards to surf Websites. Users must install a lightweight browser extension, which will pass along data about Websites they visit via Chrome to Google.
"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," Google wrote on the Screenwise landing page. Participants must be 13 years old or older, have a Google account and, of course, use Chrome.
Participants will receive a $5 Amazon gift card code for simply installing the Screenwise browser extension. Users can earn another $5 Amazon code for every three months that they continue in the Screenwise program, totalling up to $25 total credit in Amazon codes.
Google said it will evaluate whether or not it will extend the codes for participation in Screenwise that extends beyond 12 months. Those who want to try Screenwise must submit their email address to Google, which will advise those inquirers when registration opens.
Google added in its fine print that Amazon is not involved directly with the promotion. Rather, the panel-management specialist is distributing the Amazon gift card codes upon sign-up and thereafter.
Asked about Screenwise, a Google spokesperson responded:
"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."
The news, reported first by Search Engine Land, comes as Google is weathering attacks from Congress about changes it is making to its privacy policies, which on March 1 will consolidate product policy for 60 Web services, each of which may share user data with the other.
To wit, Google provided this disclaimer for Screenwise: "Google will not save your email address or associate it with any other personally identifiable information. Knowledge Networks will use your email address to send you information from firstname.lastname@example.org in the next several days with information on how to participate. Knowledge Networks will not share your email address with anyone outside authorized staff and/or third parties to provide support or maintenance to you."
The news also came one day after Google introduced Chrome for Android. The beta of the mobile browser lets users of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphones and tablets speedily browse Websites.
Presumably, Chrome for Android renders Web pages faster than the current Android browser.