Apparently, This App Turns Its Unwitting Users Into “Spies” for the US Government


So, this story is kind of wild.

Photo by Alexandros Chatzidimos from Pexels.

There’s a micro-gig app out there called premise that, ostensibly, pays its users to take pictures of random things nearby with payouts ranging from $USD .05 to .10 or more if the task is particularly time-consuming. This involves things like taking pictures of local landmarks, ATMs, and other random things in the user’s area. On top of this, the app sells data on its users to its end clients such as their geolocation and what model of smartphone they are using.

Who is commissioning this kind of work? It looks like a bunch of intelligence agencies according to The Wall Street Journal report cited by PetaPixel.

And, once you start piecing everything together, yeah, that makes sense.

Launching in 2013, the app was initially intended as a way for NGOs to gather developmental data about regions around the world in which they operate. They have since shifted to a kind of surveillance tool used by US government agencies. One particular area of interest is the Middle East per the WSJ’s article.

The CEO of the company doesn’t consider what its users are doing as spying since they are taking pictures of public spaces.

“Data gained from our contributors helped inform government policymakers on how to best deal with vaccine hesitancy, susceptibility to foreign interference and misinformation in elections, as well as the location and nature of gang activity in Honduras…Such data is available to anyone who has a cellphone. It is not unique or secret. If some of our data is used by government departments to shape policy and to protect our citizens, we are proud of that,” Premise CEO Maury Blackman told the publication.

What do you think of Premise turning its users into spies on some level? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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