Posted in War on Privacy

GooSniff is for real: Google offers to pay users who agree to constant surveillance of all their Internet traffic through a little black box

What will be next? A test of facial recognition technology? The Monster of Mountain View is doing all it can to destroy user privacy as we know it. This is just the latest proof.

Google is working to collect information about Internet users that it can’t get from just monitoring its own browser, services, and Android devices. The company has set up a new program called Screenwise, which offers money to users who install a black box on their home network to “measure Internet use.” A smaller amount of money will go to those who install a browser extension on their computers that will do the same thing.

Google quietly started up the Screenwise data collection program Tuesday night, taking the e-mail addresses of people who are interested in “add[ing] a browser extension that will share with Google the sites you visit and how you use them.” For their participation, Google offers the extension users a $5 Amazon gift card for signing up and another $5 gift card for every three months they stay with the program. Less publicly, Google also started looking for people who would install a piece of hardware on their network to do more extensive monitoring.

Daniel Brandt, who runs Google Watch, foresaw the eventuality of a device like this. In his satirical images gallery, he has a photo of a USB dongle called the GooSniff. It doesn’t exactly correspond to Google’s new black box for snooping, but it’s not far off.

Of course, this is a voluntary program. Unlike many of Google’s other spying activities, it’s opt-in. But that’s because it would be illegal for Google to forcibly install little black boxes in the home offices of every American household. To attract sheep – er, participants – Google is offering a small payout. The cost to them is small, and the potential payoff (in terms of the data collected) is huge.

The more data Google can collect, the better. That’s what they are after. And unless they are stopped, they will become a bigger threat to the privacy and security of millions of Americans than the National Security Agency.