Verizon Changes Their Ad Program To Allow Data Collection Beyond Mobile

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When it comes to targeted marketing, Verizon Wireless may have just taken the cake with the revamp(enhancement as their referring to it at Big Red)of their Relevant Mobile Advertising program that gathers data about their customers which they can then turn around and sell to marketers and ad groups. It may not be something that consumers are fond of, but this is something that many companies do and Verizon is hardly the only major carrier that does this. Even so, Verizon’s changes to their advertising policy might feel a bit more like an invasion of privacy than before.

As reported by the LA Times, Verizon’s enhancements to the Relevant Mobile Advertising program are not just limited to mobile anymore, which means that when you visit sites that are Verizon owned or log into the My Verizon website, VZW can then take that data and combine it with the mobile data that they collect when you browse the web from your mobile device. To put it bluntly, Verizon’s new ad policy allows them to collect personal advertising data on users whether their browsing the web on mobile, via wifi enabled notebooks or even when users are surfing the web from home on their desktop PCs. If that sounds a little alarming, it should.

What might be considered a silver lining of sorts is that the data ends up anonymous by the time it reaches the hands of the people who are buying it. To clarify, Verizon Wireless says that: In addition to the customer information that’s currently part of the program, we will soon use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites. This identifier may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to websites from your desktop computer to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network. While it looks like Verizon’s new strategy may pay off big for them as it only serves to increase the amount of advertising data that they can gather up and sell, as always users should have the choice to opt out of any of this if they so choose. Nothing is different here than before in that single respect. Does this bother you as a Verizon subscriber at all?

Response from Verizon’s Debi Lewis, Verizon Wireless , Corporate Communications

“Not sure if you have the background, but here’s some information on the our Relevant Mobile Advertising program.   We recently let customers know about some enhancements to the program, through notifications in My Verizon and via email.   (And, as a reminder, our customers can always change their privacy choices at any time through MyVerizon.)

An important difference is the mobile identifier is NOT a mobile cookie, as Verizon does not serve ads to customers based upon their mobile browsing activity.  The mobile identifier only allows the link between customary advertising practices online and ads that appear in the mobile space.

This is taking what currently happens in the online/PC world and relating it to mobile space.    Note that there is no Verizon – collected Web browsing information used in the program.  The unique identifier provides the advertiser with the ability to place an ad on a customer’s mobile device (ie if there is ad inventory on androidheadlines.comwhen I visit on my mobile browser…)  through an ad network and that advertiser may bring Web data to the equation.  So, for example, a retailer might advertise to folks that have visited its website.   This is all done without any personally identifiable information being shared. “