Verizon Wireless was already gathering most of this information about you. This includes your account information, mobile voice and data use, demographics about you that it gathers from data brokers and other sources, and your online activity across the web. What it's doing now is pulling all of that together in one place.
What's in it for you? Ads. You receive ads that are potentially more relevant to your interests instead of the normal ones you'd see.
What's in it for Verizon Wireless? Money. It receives a premium for helping to deliver ads to a more targeted segment of its subscriber base who presumably are more likely to buy.
It's possible that you might like this idea. For example, if you're researching the purchase of a new tablet computer you might like seeing offers from other sellers. And once retailers start rolling out location tracking in stores it's possible that you could receive texted coupons just by walking by a storefront. The problem with interest-based advertising is that it can also feel creepy when, for example, a certain set of ads associated with something you researched on Amazon.com suddenly start following you around the Web.
What Verizon Wireless is doing is exactly the same as what Google and other Web 2.0 businesses are doing on the Web. The difference is that with Google I have an implicit bargain: They provide me with popular online services — Gmail, Google Docs, Sites, YouTube, Hangouts, etc. — that I use for free in exchange for allowing them to make money by delivering targeted advertising to me. Customer service is limited, but the price is right. In contrast, Verizon Wireless offers excellent customer service and reliable performance, but I pay a premium for it.
Money talks. If I'm going to allow the sharing of my personal information by Verizon Wireless — and I consider my browsing history to be very personal — I'd like something more than just seeing targeted ads in return. How about an offer to waive airtime or data overcharges for one month of my choice every six months? Or how about 700 free airtime minutes? Or an extra 2GB per month on my data plan?
Information is the coin of the realm. So if you have a choice, why give it away?
What's your personal data worth? Are you giving it up? And if so, are you getting value in return?
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.