The gig worker app that has you spying for international government entities

PetaPixel shares the story of Premise, an app that is known to hire out local gig workers for international photo espionage.

Register now if you want to wittingly be unwittingly used as an international source of photographic data.


Premise is a micro gig worker app with photography as a core task, paying users around the world to complete simple assignments for small payments. What those users don't know, however, is that they may essentially be unwitting spies for the US military or other governments and entities.

The Wall Street Journal has published a fascinating look into the gamified intelligence gathering system that the San Francisco-based startup launched in 2013. While it was initially marketed as a way to gather international development work data for governments and NGOs, Premise has in recent years started working for US national security purposes and selling itself as a surveillance tool.

Users of the app are asked to do things such as take photos (of things like ATMs, stores, supermarkets, hospitals, and churches/mosques/synagogues/temples), provide opinions, and gather details about places (e.g. counting the number of ATMs in a location). Tasks that take a few minutes to complete may come with payouts of about $0.05 to $0.10, while other more time-consuming ones may pay more.