Verizon Wireless launched a test this week to see if its customers would share their phone's data with the company in exchange for small rewards.
Verizon customers who opt for the Verizon Selects program will receive a coupon, most likely from a popular retailer, the company said in a statement. In exchange, participants agree to allow Verizon to collect and use data from their phones, such as location, Web browsing and mobile application usage.
The idea is that Verizon can use the data for its marketing experts without stepping on the toes of its customers or running afoul of consumer laws.
But court cases and new legislation may make it even harder for companies to collect information, perhaps even with consumer consent.
California filed a lawsuit today against Delta Airlines for not complying with its demands for in-app privacy options. The state's attorney general notified 100 app makers in October that they had 30 days to comply with California's new law. Delta is the first company to be cited for noncompliance, but it may not be the last. [See also: Mobile App Providers Agree to California Privacy Demands ]
A bill requiring apps to alert users each time an app collected and shared location information is being reviewed by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the bill's sponsor, said, "Every smartphone out there is a personal tracking device that transmits our location."
Franken said the bill (S.1223, Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011) would "put an end to Internet stalking."
Whether Verizon's opt-in data-sharing program would require an alert each time data were shared, or if the one-time opt-in would be sufficient, is not known. The Senate committee is scheduled to vote on the bill next Thursday.