Home / Tech News / Luth gathers metadata from smartphones, tablets and PC’s, pays participants $100/month (Winston Ross/MIT Technology Review)

Luth gathers metadata from smartphones, tablets and PC’s, pays participants $100/month (Winston Ross/MIT Technology Review)

Despite the outcry over government and corporate snooping, some people allow themselves be monitored for money or rewards. By Winston Ross on August 26, 2014 Anyone paying attention knows that his or her Web searches, Facebook feeds, and other online activity isn’t always safe—be it from the prying eyes of the NSA or those of the companies providing a social networking service. While a substantial chunk of the populace finds all this tracking creepy and invasive, though, there’s a demographic that collectively shrugs at the notion of being mined for data. Some startups hope to exploit this by buying access to your Web browsing and banking data (see “ Sell Your Personal Data for $8 a Month ”). Luth Research , a San Diego company, is now offering companies an unprecedented window into the private digital domains of tens of thousands of people who have agreed to let much of what they do on a smartphone, tablet, or PC be tracked for a $100 a month. Luth’s “ZQ Intelligence” service collects and analyzes data from preselected participants’ phones and computers via a virtual private network connection. Data is routed through the company’s servers where it is collected and analyzed for trends. The company doesn’t view the contents of messages, but what it does gather includes where smartphone users are at any given moment, what websites they are visiting, what queries they are feeding into Google, and how often they check Twitter. The program’s participants are also asked to answer questions about their behavior. Luth’s current and former clients include Subway, Microsoft, Walmart, the San Diego Padres, Nickelodeon, and Netflix. The information it collects can help companies decide where to spend advertising dollars. Advertisers want better targeting because click-through rates for online ads now stands at less than .01 percent. Luth did a project for Ford Motor Company this year—Ford wanted to better understand customers’ “path to purchase.” The company rounded up research subjects in the market for a car, and then tracked the journey they took from researching to finally buying. A customer might drive to a dealership, browse other automakers’ websites while there, and research financing options later. All of that behavior can be analyzed to help Ford figure out where to best spend its advertising dollars.

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Luth gathers metadata from smartphones, tablets and PC’s, pays participants $100/month (Winston Ross/MIT Technology Review)

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