Verizon has a new rewards program called Verizon Up, a replacement for its Smart Rewards program. With the Verizon Up program, Customers earn 1 credit for every US$300 spent on Verizon’s products and services. Credits can be exchanged for streaming subscriptions, movie tickets, and discounts on device upgrades. What could go wrong? It turns out you have to agree to an unrelated program that allows Big Red to sell personally identifying data to third parties.
Verizon’s Ad Program
Rewards programs sound good up front, but the Verizon Up program requires you to opt-in to a separate program that let’s the company share your browsing history with “vendors and partners.” The ad program is called Verizon Selects, and you can’t participate in the rewards program without first agreeing to the ads program.
From the description (emphasis added):
We do not share information that identifies you personally outside of Verizon as part of this program other than with vendors and partners who do work for us…We require that these vendors and partners protect the information and use it only for the services they are providing us.
Types of Data Collected
The Verizon Selects Participation Agreement provides a list of your data that it collects and sells:
- Information about your wireless device and how you use it – including web addresses of sites you visit, similar information about apps and features you use, as well as device and advertising identifiers.
- Information about your device location, including network data and location information transmitted by apps you permit to use your device location.
- Your postal and email addresses.
- Information about the quantity, type, destination, location, and amount of use of your Verizon telecommunications and interconnected voice over internet services and related billing information (also known as Customer Proprietary Network Information or CPNI).
- Information about your Verizon products and services and how you use them (such as data and calling features and use, Fios service options, equipment and device types).
- Information we get from other companies (such as gender, age range, interests, shopping preferences, and ad responses) or that you provide.
- Information advertisers share with us to better target their own advertising.
Data Storage and Supercookies
This information is stored for up to 3 years, and even though you can opt-out of the program at any time, you can’t take back your data. Verizon collects your data with the help of a device identifier, called a Unique Identifier Header (UIDH).
It’s better known as a supercookie, and last year the FCC fined Verizon US$1.35 million for using this technology. When Verizon bought Yahoo in June, it merged Yahoo and AOL into a new company called Oath, also known as Verizon Digital Network. Oath is responsible for Verizon’s advertising endeavors, and it receives your data in the Verizon Selects program:
This information may be combined with information collected by Oath advertising services on devices you use to access Oath services and visit third-party websites and apps that include Oath advertising services (such as web browsing, app usage, and location), as well as information that we obtain from third-party partners and advertisers. This information is described in the Oath and Yahoo privacy policies.
The ad program is opt-in and customers get rewards in exchange for letting Verizon collect their data. But, 1 credit for every US$300 you spend seems like a paltry amount. Verizon isn’t disclosing how much each reward costs, so it might take a lot of money before you can get useful rewards.