Verizon Wireless recently announced changes to its Relevant Mobile Advertising Program that will allow the carrier to track your desktop surfing habits on the Web and use that information to help advertisers deliver targeted ads to your mobile phone. I found out about the change after logging into my Verizon Wireless account online and noticing this little message...
...which lead to this much longer message:
Here's the deal:
Very soon, Verizon Wireless says, it will assign an "anonymous unique identifier" to customers when they visit one of the company's websites. That identifier will be used to track the web sites you visit while you're browsing from your desktop or laptop online — nothing new here. But the identifier will also allow Verizon Wireless to link that information back to your mobile account so that the carrier can offer advertisers the opportunity to use that information to deliver what's known as behaviorally targeted advertising to you. That advertising will appear in the mobile apps you run and the sites you browse from your mobile device. According to the Verizon Wireless Customer Privacy Settings page, "...we will use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites. This may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to online websites to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network."
You won't see more ads, but the ones you do see will be targeted to you based on what interest buckets you fall into. (Want even more ads? You can sign up for Verizon Selects, which sends you additional targeted ads by "postal mail, email, text, Internet and mobile advertising.")
Advertisers already can deliver what are called "contextual" ads — a game ad for a visitor to a gaming fan site, for example. But with online tracking the carrier gathers the history of your online behavior, runs some analytics on it and puts your name into different interest-based groups that advertisers covet. This allows the delivery of ads to be more accurately targeted to just those people who fit a very specific profile. So when you go to a news site, for example, you might see an ad for mobile phone cases while someone else sees a diaper ad. Verizon Wireless doesn't share your name or information with the advertisers — that would be giving away the store. But it does offer advertisers an opportunity to deliver ads to groups of its customers with the interests they're looking for.
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