Verizon has notified its customers that it will begin collecting more information from its customers for sale to advertisers:
The company says it’s “enhancing” its Relevant Mobile Advertising program, which it uses to collect data on customers’ online habits so that marketers can pitch stuff at them with greater precision.
“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,” Verizon Wireless is telling customers.
“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,” it says.
That means exactly what it looks like: Verizon will monitor not just your wireless activities but also what you do on your wired or Wi-Fi-connected laptop or desktop computer — even if your computer doesn’t have a Verizon connection.
The inevitable outcome of government protected monopolies is customer abuse. This move by Verizon is a prime example of this. Verizon enjoys government protection from competitors in many forms such as the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) monopoly over wireless spectrum distribution, municipal control over the installation of new communication infrastructure, and outright monopolies granted by local governments to favored Internet Service Providers (ISP). Without any effective competition Verizon enjoys the ability to abuse its customers who have two options: put up with the abuse or go entirely without the service. And this abuse is only going to increase as Verizon realizes it has a captive audience who can be used to extract every possible penny from without fear of retaliation.
Abuses by ISPs is another reason why we need to radically decentralize Internet access. One of the more promising ideas for decentralizing Internet access are mesh networks. I’ve been working with several other people on using a combination of Ubiquiti M2-HP access points with Commotion Wireless firmware to create mesh networks. We’ve found out that setting up a mesh network is trivial and I believe it could be an option in bypassing ISPs, especially high-density in neighborhoods where access points could be installed on every building. While such a solution isn’t universal it is a step in the right direction.
The less power ISPs have over us the less they can abuse us. Our priority at this point in time should be to take as much control away from ISPs as possible.