Verizon Discovers Consumers Care About Privacy, Not Perks

Presented with limited commercial interruption by:

In tonight’s edition of “no brainer”:

Instead of mining user information at every opportunity, Verizon asked its wireless customers to volunteer their Web browsing history and location information in exchange for certain freebies, such as Uber rides and concert tickets. The behavioral data is regarded as extremely lucrative because it gives Verizon the ability to target advertising more accurately and to charge marketers more.

Given the choice, most of Verizon’s 116.5 million wireless subscribers decided not to take the deal. Just 10 million of them have opted into the data-sharing program, known as Verizon Selects, according to the Journal.

Even some of those who opted in may have done so inadvertently or were unaware they had a choice. On social media, Verizon customers have advised one another on how to belatedly revoke their data-sharing consent.

Verizon gets a couple points for at least giving folks the option. They then lose the points for making the perks terrible. It speaks volumes when one’s browsing history is equated to the value of a couple free Uber trips.

Today’s lesson: cheap bulk advertising is hard when you don’t know anything about your target audience. If only there was a way to advertise to people things that are actually useful or maybe ask for voluntary info on the kinds of things people like. (Carte blanche access to browsing history is the cheating way to collect all that information). If I knew I’d only be given ads for stuff I actually had interest in, I’d be open to volunteering a few select categories.

Even then, I can’t imagine most would bother. Sorry, Verizon. Turns out being an ISP and an ad company that doesn’t entirely and completely spy on its customers at the same time is hard. Who knew?