Can Governments Get Economic Data From People On The Street?

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If you’re a college student in Buenos Aires or Chennai, you may have come across an unorthodox way of making extra money. Using your Android phone, an American corporation will pay you to stop by the supermarket on the way home; snap a picture of how much bread or tomatoes costs that day; and submit the price of those commodities into an elaborate data system.

California-based Premise, as they're called, uses this information as fodder for an unusual business model: getting inflation and commodity price data before governments do, sourced from regular people on the street. Using thousands of college students and other part-time workers, Premise gathers raw item prices from retailers and street markets worldwide.

The information Premise’s workers collect is used to help develop live inflation indexes and food security data for clients including hedge funds and government agencies.

According to Premise, the company is currently collecting economic data in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, China, Japan, and Australia. Premise is currently offering their indexes to corporations and financial service providers, to government agencies, and to marketing organizations. Of these, David Soloff, Premise’s CEO, feels government agencies have the biggest potential for licensing Premise’s indexes.

Can Governments Get Economic Data From People On The Street?