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July 28, 2014

New Program Trades Your Privacy for Rewards

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

 With great fanfare, Verizon Wireless launched its new reward program last week called Verizon Smart Rewards.

You collect points for signing up, for being a loyal customer, for amounts paid on your bill, for signing up for paperless billing, etc. And those points can be used for discounts on meals, merchandise, gift cards, entertainment and more.

This is what the homepage for Smart Rewards looks like at launch:

Smart Rewards

It explains how the program works: you sign up, your earn points, and you redeem rewards. Simple. Oh, they left out just one thing. See that sentence at the bottom that we outlined in yellow?

*MOUSE PRINT:

May require enrollment in Verizon Selects, which delivers more relevant advertising using anonymized information about customer use of Verizon products and services, interests and demographics.

You have to enroll in some advertising program called Verizon Selects? Huh?

Well, delivering relevant advertising is the result of the program. What you really are agreeing to is to allow the company to observe your Internet surfing habits on your smartphone, where you shop, what apps you use, what your location is, where and whom you call, and more. In essence, in return for getting rewards, you are allowing Verizon to track you.

But it doesn’t say that there. What a silly (or very deliberate) omission. And when you go to the registration page, all the introduction says is:

Verizon Selects personalizes the content and marketing you may receive from Verizon and other selected companies.

Still, you have not been informed what this Verizon Selects thing really is. It tells you the result of their tracking — getting more relevant advertising — not that it is a program to track you. Only when you scroll down to the terms and conditions agreement section, do they spring it on you, and ask you to agree to it.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Verizon Selects
[size reduced to fit space]

It seems to us that Verizon should be upfront about the precondition that you must agree to be tracked in order to sign up for the rewards programs, and clearly disclose that on the first page of the offer.

Customers will have to decide whether they think the rewards they are offering are worth allowing the company to track your smartphone usage. Incidentally, Verizon tells us that once you sign up for the rewards program and the tracking program, you can cancel the tracking part and still keep earning rewards.

Note: Edgar Dworsky is a member of Verizon’s Consumer Advisory Board.

• • •

5 Comments

  1. If I was told upfront about the precondition that you must agree to be tracked in order to sign up for the rewards programs I will not sign up for the program.

    Comment by richard — July 28, 2014 @ 12:21 pm
  2. It’s bad enough getting advertising thrown at you from every direction imaginable, but to actually sign up for MORE? Ah, but this will be targeted ads especially for you and about 10 million other people.

    I wouldn’t sign up for this even if they actually paid me REAL money, not just the promise of a gift card or discounts.

    To top it off, they want to track you and see your usage and location. What could ever go wrong with this scenario? Are there any three letter government agencies listening to everything you say or do?

    Comment by bobl — July 28, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
  3. I understand why companies want to use tracking to target their advertisements, but it would be much easier for companies to have pre-set categories for ads and allow users to choose which ones they want to see. Just because I shop for a pair of shoes using a Google search it doesn’t mean I want to see Google ads about shoes. Let me tell you what I want you to advertise to me and that will be the best targeting you can get.

    At least Verizon included the message in there at some point. Although I guess they are legally required to if they don’t want trouble.

    Comment by Wayne R — July 28, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
  4. I signed up without reading because my neighbor told me about the increased upload speed I could get, then I read all the articles about the data collection.

    There is no way to get out of the program except to call, have a trouble ticket made out and then to wait and hope they remove you from the program.

    Comment by Mike D — August 4, 2014 @ 9:44 am
  5. Ahh the joys of a “dumb” phone. Since I have no “smart” phone I never have to worry about all this.

    If you want a smart phone then your going to have to give up some of your privacy. Sooner or later just by owning a “smart” phone you should know they are learning more about your habits then you realize.

    Caveat emptor .

    Comment by Rich j — August 15, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

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