fermion writes "Do you wonder what all those free iPods links are about? Do you wonder why apparently rational Slashdot users would use their .sig line to push an offer that seems little more than a thinly veiled pyramid scheme? Answers to these questions can be found in this NYT article (personal information, with no free iPod, is required). The plan itself seems simple. Rat out your friends to advertisers, and get a free gadget. The firm in question, Gratis, Inc, gets a bounty on each customer. The firm claims to have a revenue of $15 million in 2004. They claim to give away 500 iPods a week. If, as the article claims, each contact earns a bounty of around $50, we might presume that 1 in 12 contacts get a free iPod. This firm seem fairly upfront. Another firm mentioned in the article, Consumer Research Corporation, seems much less so. As always, read the fine print."