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Editorial: Get followed for a coupon?

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This week Verizon Wireless launched a nationwide loyalty program. Underneath its fashionable red cloak we’ll call “rewards” is a more sinister one with teeth we’ll call “tracking.”

It works like this: To qualify for discounts on hotel rooms, car rentals and products from a Verizon catalog or the Verizon website, all any of the company’s 100-million-plus subscribers have to do is agree to have their movements tracked so they can be better targeted with ads.

On the surface, it would appear a lucky coincidence to learn your favorite pricey coffeehouse is having a special on a basket of muffins at the very moment you turn onto its street.

On a deeper level, it amounts to receiving a modest discount for being followed.

Most Americans now have cellphones – many in lieu of landlines – and providers are focusing on luring and retaining customers to maintain/increase their market share.

As Verizon and undoubtedly its competitors roll out rewards programs, it will be interesting to see if the nation’s cellphone customers decide trading their privacy for a discount coupon amounts to a happy ending.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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