For some University students, the idea of getting paid to surf the Web and recruiting others to do the same sounds simple enough, but officials warn that it may be against University policy.
AllAdvantage.com is an Internet company that pays members for using the Internet and collects data on their browsing habits, which it then gives to other companies. In turn, these companies pay AllAdvantage.com to provide customized online advertisements to its members.
"I have received two checks so far," Cameron Jones '01 said. "One for $54, and one for a little over $200. This month should be considerably more, $350 or so. They do pay, believe it or not."
The company pays its members 50 cents per hour for up to 25 hours of active surfing per month. After they refer AllAdvantage.com to friends, members also receive payment for each hour a referral spends surfing the Web. The original member receives additional money for five generations of referrals.
"I have 156 direct referrals and about 600 others. About 20 to 30 of these are on campus," Jones said.
According to CIT policy and security adviser Rita Saltz, however, using AllAdvantage.com on the Princeton network may be illegal because it is "a commercial use of internal University resources."
Living on the edge
Some students are still willing to take the risk in order to make money. One junior who asked not to be identified said, "This seems no different from AOL Instant Messenger or ICQ. It's just another service I get through the University network, so I'll probably keep using it."
"Sponsors love what we're doing," AllAdvantage.com official Gregg Stebben said. "Direct marketing is not nearly as effective as this. Companies also give money back to members through special deals and discounts."
Students seem to appreciate the checks more than the customized advertising, however.
"I don't click on any banners that come up," Liz Federowicz '02 said. "I just keep my browser on and get my $12.50 a month."
Members only earn money through active surfing – by searching, scrolling, and clicking, Stebben said."
But some students have found a way to earn money even without browsing the Web by running a program that keeps the mouse moving on the screen, thereby keeping the timer counting. The program is usually passed from one member to his or her referrals, according to the anonymous student.
"It tricks [the company] into thinking I'm surfing the Web when I'm not," Federowicz said.
According to Stebben, "a tiny, minuscule percentage of members may be [running the mouse program], but they are losing more than they are gaining. We will catch them, and they will lose their accounts and benefits."
Although AllAdvantage.com has briefly advertised in college newspapers and run a poster campaign, the most effective advertising has been word-of-mouth, Stebben said.
"A friend was helping me set up my computer at the beginning of the year, and I offered to take him out for lunch," the anonymous junior said. "He said that instead of me taking him out to lunch, he'd rather I sign up for AllAdvantage.com."