You may have good reason to safeguard your privacy these days, but would you hand over the goods if someone paid you? For some people, the answer is "yes." Companies like Luth Research have been paying willing subjects a modest amount (in Luth's case, $100 per month) to track their devices' locations, web histories and app usage to improve advertising and shopping. Ford, for example, used the technology this year to see how prospective buyers research a car; it could tell if participants bought a vehicle after visiting its site, or if they were using their phone to research alternatives in the showroom. These monitoring schemes are hardly low-profile, either. Verizon recently launched a voluntary program that promises rewards if you share your positioning and web info.
These companies don't usually want everything (messages are often safe), and there are frequently security measures like virtual private networks (VPNs) that reduce the chances someone will take data without your permission. You can typically drop out of these tracking systems very easily if you're nervous. Still, it's easy to understand why you might not want to fork over sensitive info, no matter what your pay may be. You're giving someone else valuable information and trusting that they won't either misuse it or lose it to a data breach. And future collection methods may make you uncomfortable, even if you don't mind putting information out in the open -- Luth is developing ambient audio recording that would help it figure out exactly what you're doing at a given moment.
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*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.