One Step Forward for Verizon, Two Steps Back for Consumers
From Amazon to Verizon, it’s looking like the markets are set to correct the duopoly. Recent news from Verizon shows its current strategy to gain market share is to pool together consumer data with telecom competitors including T-Mobile, Sprint, Vodafone, and Telefonica.
By merging all of their user data together, the telecoms would be in a strong position to offer ad targeting to rival Google and Facebook. Even though their pooled subscriber bases look small on the surface, telecoms have unparalleled insight into their customers’ lives, households, and browsing history… and that’s information they could probably collect without customers having to opt-in.
For anyone keeping score, this is the exact scenario that the FCC was trying to prevent with its previous regulations that blocked internet providers from using or selling customers’ web browsing history without consent.
Earlier this year, telecoms and other ad tech companies successfully fought to overturn these rules, arguing that they were too strict and confusing. And they had a point: the regulations created an uneven playing field that allowed major ad networks but not ISPs to collect data without consumer consent.
Using invasive user data for advertising hurts consumers, whether it’s by telecoms or anyone else. The latest news from Verizon sends the ad tech industry two steps back in its fight to rebuild trust, as consumers have voted for privacy time and again through rampant adoption of ad blockers. And the telecom’s justification that it would provide “better marketing” is a thinly veiled excuse to pass personal data on to middlemen and provide creepy digital ads in return.
Time will tell if Verizon’s competitors are willing to jointly point their pitchforks at Facebook and Google, but any company that only considers short term gains in the fight for user trust will lose down the line.