Verizon Wireless is launching a rewards program this week for subscribers who consent to having their everyday movements tracked.
The program, called Smart Rewards, offers gift cards and travel deals to subscribers who surrender their web surfing, app usage and location data in exchange for targeted advertisements based on that personal information through the Verizon Selects tracking program.
“To make marketing messages more relevant, Verizon will analyze the information described above to identify you as part of a group of people a marketer is trying to reach,” the terms and conditions for Verizon Selects state.
The wireless company introduced Verizon Selects back in 2012 but has now created the Smart Rewards program to encourage more subscribers to enroll.
Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon’s vice president of wireless marketing, told the AP that the company expects Smart Rewards to help with “customer retention,” which is an odd statement considering that Verizon lost customers last year after The Guardian revealed that the company gave the National Security Agency unfettered access to its subscribers’ phone records, including the time and duration of phone calls.
“In other words, if you are a Verizon customer, your detailed phone records secretly have been handed over – and will continue to be handed over – to NSA agents,” reported Joe Wolverton, II of The New American.
But instead of backing away from data collection, Verizon is now publicly announcing that it intends to do more, and although Google also uses personal data for targeted advertisements, Verizon is likely the first to publicly use location data from cell phone towers to send local ads to users based on their vicinity.
And the wireless company also followed Google’s lead when it filed a patent for a TV box back in 2012 that can detect ambient noise in people’s homes, such as talking, exercising, fighting and cleaning, which are then used to display targeted advertisements.
So, for example, if Verizon’s TV box senses a vacuum cleaner running in the background, it may display ads for carpet freshener or vacuum bags.
“The patent also notes that users will have the ability to connect smart phones and tablets to the box, increasing the range and sensitivity of the monitoring device,” reported Steve Watson. “Americans buying the product would not only be literally inviting Big Brother to come into their homes, but asking him to walk about inside it with them.”
And with the latest Smart Rewards program, it doesn’t appear that Verizon will step away from Big Brother anytime soon.