Is This the Creepiest Way to Earn Miles Yet? New App Gives You Miles for Tracking Everywhere You Go

Even pre-Snowden we knew that the government was collecting and storing our cell phone geolocation data. And data mining grocery store discount cards. And using license plate readers on traffic cameras to track our movements.

Whether or not the full contents of our emails are being scooped up, at a minimum our email metadata is. The notion of privacy, at least from our government, is dead. And governments can do more with that information than corporations can.

How would you feel about giving that information to corporations, too, for marketing purposes?

What if they threw you a few miles to do it?

Travel brands used to give out points just for liking them on Facebook. They thought they could buy a lifetime of marketing to you that way, but of course it’s tough to make money on someone else’s platform and it’s tough for companies to advertise organically on Facebook.

Six years ago a site called TopGuest started offering loyalty points for social media check-ins.

They let you earn points with Hilton, Best Western, Choice Hotels, Priority Club plus Virgin America, Wyndham, plus Kimpton, Voila Rewards, and others. Even United was added.

You would link a TopGuest account to a social media profile such as Foursquare, and then check in on Foursquare when at a qualifying venue to earn points.

The technology wasn’t perfect, and back when I had a Blackberry I could check in on Foursquare at a Doubletree (Hilton points), Holiday Inn (Priority Club), Best Western, and more all from my home. It became a daily ritual of quick points.

Others got in the game. Tripanomaly offered Delta points for sharing your location at airports and Delta partner locations. Marriott Plus Points rewards social shares.

Letting a Company Track You Constantly is Worth Miles

There’s now an app that takes all of this a step further. The Frequent Flyer app for Android and iOS from Placed will track your location throughout the day and feed surveys based on location data.

After a user installs Frequent Flyer, the app measures location data in the background as the person moves throughout the physical world. On occasion consumers will receive surveys based on the places they’ve visited, and with each response accruing more airline miles.

Placed claims to have built one of the largest location databases in the world.

On a daily basis, Placed’s audience generates over 2 billion first party location data points, representing one of the largest proprietary location databases in the world.

So how much are your location data and survey responses worth? They’ll reportedly let you earn up to 100 American, United, Alaska, or Hawaiian miles per month.

In addition to survey response earnings, you can generate miles by referring friends and receive 10% of their earnings.

Would You Do It?

Ultimately I don’t mind being tracked, roughly speaking being tracked to market to me is about the most innocuous use of the data that I can imagine.

But I value my data far more than 100 miles a month, and certainly won’t keep my phone’s location services turned on all the time draining battery for that level reward.

(HT: Scott Mayerowitz, @GlobeTrotScott)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sounds like a good idea, but earning 100 miles per month? That totally does not worth my time and my privacy!

  2. My biggest concern for an app running in the background and continually accessing location data is cell phone battery life.

  3. 100 miles? No thanks. If it were of value I’d certainly do it, I work at home so they’d see my data and think I left my phone home. But speaking of that, what’s to keep you from leaving an old smart phone plugged in at home?

  4. I think the better question, which is being bandied about in this forum, is what would it take? I’m a miles whore, especially as I’m working towards my next trip to Hawaii, so the program itself is of interest, but the value doesn’t get me to sign up. Even 1,000 per month would seem too few. But what if it was a little closer to the TopBonus program (which unceremoniously dumped people when they realized one could check into a hotel while just driving by it). That is, if you went to certain places and they told you to take a survey because they had your location AND you received both a flat daily or monthly rate and a kicker for filling out the survey. A tracking e-Miles, essentially. I’m actually surprised they don’t offer it with more flexibility. Would I do it for 100 miles a month? No. But 100 miles a day if you had it on for a minimum number of hours and moved across (say) 10 miles via car or some such other transportation? I think this is a great core idea that will take off.

    Of course, there is that little thing about sacrificing your privacy…BUT miles! Miles!

  5. @M From hacker news: Every site you visit is already being tracked by your cell phone battery usage. I’m not quite sure how this is done but they have an explanation of it.

    I am pretty major companies, not just Microsoft, are going to sue the goverment for hundreds of billions, if not trillions . They didn’t think of that hen they started intercepting Cisco equipment and loading it with malware.
    A federal crim defense lawyer told m 5 years ago if you’d told him everything the government was doing, he would not believe it. He’s been practiving 30 year and was a federal prosecutor. I know another CDL who write the Simple Justice blog, who refuses to talk to clients on cell phones because the secret of Stingray was released.
    The difference between the movie and today is “drama”
    @Gary: I have a cell phone I never use in a drawer. If I turn it on, does it cost more than $1 per month to charge the battery? That’s what this amounts to.

    When Orwell wrote 1984, he didn’t contemplate the World was not all a shade of gray. But,we’re way past that in monitoring. Here’s one guy who would , if on a jury, nullify a guilty verdict for Snowden.
    I think that number is at least 1 in 12

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