We are flattered that the Wall Street Journal decided to write about our work. However, we wanted to clear up a couple of misconceptions that the reporter made about who we are and what we do.
There are three points in the article that require clarification. Primarily, the repeated use of the word “unwitting” when referring to our Contributors in Tau’s article. Second, that our Contributors are deliberately being put at risk in some unstable regions in the world. Finally, that Premise is a tool of surveillance.
“Unwitting” implies that our Contributors are unaware that they are being paid for data that is marketed to third parties including governments. There are many apps and services that share user information with third parties without their users knowing. We actually tell our Contributors upfront that we’re going to pay them for this data, we own it, and we’re going to market it – just like many other data collection and market research firms. Finally, it is very uncommon for market research companies to reveal the end customer. This is done to maintain objectivity and to eliminate any bias. Premise follows this best practice.
These tasks are designed with our Contributors’ safety and privacy top of mind and they generally fall in one of two buckets:
- Survey-based, which asks Contributors to tell us their opinions about a specific topic of interest in their community.
- Location-based, which asks Contributors to go to a specific public location and tell us, for instance, how much a cup of coffee costs or identify the names and locations of health care facilities.
Mr. Tau’s article implies that we are putting Contributors in precarious situations by citing an example of a mosque in Afghanistan that Contributors did not reserve because it was potentially dangerous. We advise our Contributors to only do work they are comfortable completing.
We saw this first hand while working with the United Nations Habitat to assess damaged buildings in Yemen. When the task wasn’t being completed, Premise asked Contributors why they were not interested in doing the work. When they reported safety issues in the area, we halted the task immediately. Safety will always take priority over data collection.
The implication that Premise is a tool of surveillance is completely inaccurate and unfounded. Premise Contributors do not enter private spaces and never collect information on an individual, nor do they violate the privacy of any individual or business. Premise is used to collect publicly available information and is never used to surveil a person or location.
In summary, we would like to thank the Wall Street Journal for highlighting our company and its groundbreaking technology that’s transforming the way organizations capture data and conduct market research. And, as quoted in the story, should our data be used to shape better, more informed policies, improve communities, or protect citizens, we are very proud to play that role.