Smartphones popularized the current gig economy, and according to a news story from The Wall Street Journal, certain organizations, such as Premise, have discovered a new method to exploit workers looking for extra cash by turning them into unsuspecting spies for corporate and military clients.
premise was founded “to register prices in the developing world and help its customers better understand the needs of the population,” according to Journal reporter Byron Tau. However, the company reportedly had even more success having contributors complete TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk-Esque tasks like completing surveys, taking photos of locations, and walking specific paths, while on occasion completing surveys, taking photos of locations, and walking specific paths.
premise was also allegedly paying people in Afghanistan to find and photograph Shiite mosques in the city of Kabul, which is impossible not to perceive as dubious. Premise told Tau that photographing religious locations is a common assignment used “to help clients understand the physical and social geography of a place,” but the Premise contributor Tau dealt with was concerned that they had been asked to do espionage duties.
Even if Premise can claim it isn’t running a distributed CIA, there’s a lot about Premise’s clients and potential business partners (hint: some of them possess fighter jets) that seems at least a little problematic. If you want to know everything there is to know about the story, read the whole report for all the details Tau unearthed.