Yay or Nay?

Last week I got a phone call from someone I first thought was a telephone sales person. Since I’ve been on the New York “Do Not Call” Registry the number of phone solicitations I receive has gone from several a day to nearly zero. Now I mostly get political campaigners and people doing surveys on the phone but only an occaisional sales call. The caller quickly explained he was calling from Nielsen NetRatings of Nielsen Media Research. You know, of television rating fame. Could we ask you a few questions?

“Uhhh… I don’t think I can participate.” I said. This was after I’d answered yes to all the qualifying questions: Are you the only person using your computer at work? Do you use Microsoft Windows operating system? Can you install software on the computer yourself?

They want me to be a panelist for their Internet research by installing their software on my computer at work. Software that reports my surfing habits to them. Hmmm… Do I want my work day surfing habits to be recorded and reported? I’m thinking, NO WAY.

Then he says, “By the way, there is compensation for participation.”

“Really?” I’m surprised by that.

“Yes, the payment is a $100 U.S. Savings Bond for every six months of participation.”

Not bad. I asked him if you can de-activate the software if necessary. He tells me it needs to be uninstalled and then reinstalled, there is no deactivation. (Actually, there probably is but he just doesn’t know that.) The guy tells me since I qualified he’ll send me the package and I can decide then. I agreed and promptly forgot about it until the disk arrived in the mail today. The package included five, crisp one dollar bills as an incentive for taking the time to install and activate the software. I read the privacy statement which, in part, says:

“[We] will never disclose your identity, where you live, where you work or where you go on the Web to any third party. Nor will you be added to anyone’s direct mail or electronic distribution list. We appreciate and value the cooperation of the folks that help us with our research and we want to keep your trust.

Our software tracks computer activity on and off the Internet, including sites visited, length of visit and applications used. It cannot identify the contents of your personal files, such as financial records, word processing or e-mail. It does not collect software registration information.”

Given that I’m aware of the value of market research, that their information is only likely to be reported in aggregrate and there is payment involved, I am now at a ‘maybe’ status. What I do at work isn’t that big of a deal and I’m not sure I care if someone knows about it as long as my boss doesn’t. (Although, since he’s into eBay, sports, classic cars and adult entertainment on the web at work, I’m not sure he’d care anyway.) Heh, he’d probably even think it was cool that I would get paid for research by Nielsen.

What do you think?


  1. I would be very careful, and check around to see if anyone else has this installed, and if so, what has it done to the computer, etc etc…

  2. just remember that 1 $100 savings bond is not a $100 value for a looooooooooong time…it was bad enough when it used to be 7 years…i think it is 12 or more now, can’t really remember…<br><br>could be you are being tracked anyway, as all these new popups i have been getting are warning me, might as well earn something for it…

  3. I think it’s 14 years now for savings bonds.<br><br>I’d just keep the five bucks and blow them off. I don’t trust things like that… even though they’re saying they can’t track your personal items… how do they know what’s personal and what isn’t?<br><br>I certainly wouldn’t want them knowing where I bank, shop or surf… it’s too easy already to get information about folks. What if you used a credit card online? Would the site’s encryption keep their software on your end from reading the info? I think not.

  4. Having a degree in Sociology, I’m usually all for helping out the researchers. As long as those privacy guarantees are in writing I don’t see a problem. If demographic info does go with your surfing – could be good (or bad hehehehe) for representing us lesbian ladies 🙂

  5. I do Nielsen TV stuff, I like those crisp one dollar bills.<br>You know enough about computers to get yourself out of it if need be. Just do it and put the bonds away for Thilde’s wedding.

  6. I definitely wouldn’t do it without clearing it with the boss. That’s the sort of thing that could come back to haunt you. If the boss gives the thumbs up, though, then it shouldn’t be a big deal. Although getting paid $55 (five in cash, and the $50 initial value of the savings bond) isn’t that much for six months of data, IMHO. It’s free money, but not THAT much free money…

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