Verizon Wireless is rewarding long-term customers by tricking them into joining a ‘rewards’ program that A) Feels and works just like those yucky penny auction sites B) let’s Verizon consume and sell immense amounts very sensitive personal information about you. A very strong “boo,” to Verizon. Please stop abusing my visits to your website with popups about it.
Let’s take these two things one at a time, even though they are conjoined twins in Verizon’s world.
The Verizon Smart Rewards program was launched earlier this year, and now that it’s been in operation for a few months, one thing is clear: it’s pretty dumb. Sure, folks get points for time served with the wireless giant, but it’s hard to say what those points are worth. You can only use them to bid on items in a closed marketplace. The ‘auctions’ can go on until infinity, like penny auctions. A recent $25 gift card went for 26,000 points, according to this site.
This user, on the same page, complains that the points have so far been worthless to him.
“I’ve got over 20,000 points, and I’ve bid on about 50 auctions and haven’t won a single thing. You have to be online, on the bidding page, at the exact time the auction ends …. to have about a 1 in 1000 chance of winning something. What a waste of time and energy!”
So now that I’ve established the points are nearly worthless, and mabye even a costly waste of time, for you, I’m hoping you are asking the next logical question: Why is Verizon pushing it so hard? What’s in it for them?
Verizon Selects. Sounds like a better Chicken McNugget, no? Verizon Selects is another name for Verizon gets to track you intimately and sell all your information to the highest bidder.
When you go to click on the “agree” button and sign up for the rewards program, you are also forced to agree to the Verizon Selects terms and conditions. And here’s a snippet of what you must agree to (again, in exchange for the chance to participate in a crazy auction):
“To provide you with ads …from Verizon and others…we would like to use information about your use of Verizon products and services,” it says. Such information includes:
*Addresses of websites you visit when using our wireless service. These data strings (or URLs) may include search terms you have used.
*Location of your device.
*Apps and device feature usage.
*Demographic, interest and behavior characteristics provided to us by other companies, such as gender, age range, sports fan, pet owner, shopping preferences, and ad responses.
*Demographic, interest and behavior characteristics developed by Verizon.
*Information about the quantity, type, destination, location, and amount of use of your Verizon voice services and related billing information (also known as Customer Proprietary Network Information or “CPNI”).
*Other information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features and use, FiOS service options, equipment and device types).
Why is Verizon doing this? Well, a bunch of other companies known as “data brokers” are doing something similar and making a whole lot of money. The data Verizon has is even better, however, because in addition to knowing that you are an “Urban Scrambler” or have a “cholesterol interest,” Verizon knows where you are. All the time.
But there’s a hitch. Because it is a telecommunications company, and an old one at that, Verizon faces regulations that data brokers do not. In this case, this means that Verizon must get permission from consumers before sharing and selling your data. Hence, the farce of a benefit known as Verizon Smart (dumb) Rewards. It’s a trade.
Some day, a firm will be honest enough to offer consumer a real deal: here’s some money in exchange for your privacy. I can’t imaging it’ll be a good deal — who really knows what the costs are when you barter away your privacy — but at least it’ll be straightforward. Verizon’s bargain is terrible. Let’s hope it goes away soon.
To read more about Verizon Selects, you can try this link, though it appears you must be logged in to read it.