So here I am, reading about something or other on my computer, when my pocket dings. Ah! Perhaps my wife needs a ride? Or a friend wants to invite me for coffee?Nope: this is the message (I have redacted the url, but everything else is verbatim):
Rogers GeoTxt: Welcome to Rogers GeoTxt! We text you great offers from some of Canada’s best retailers when you’re nearby. Help us send you the messages that are right for you by completing your Rogers GeoTxt profile. Learn more and complete your profile at http://nrby.me/xxxxx. This free geo-location marketing service is exclusive to Rogers wireless postpaid customers 18 years of age or over. Text STOP to 5050 to opt-out. Contact us at http://nrby.me/xxxxx
(Now if you find this new “service” exciting, and you cannot wait to start getting these texts, then you can stop reading this post now, it will just make you angry.)
Strangely enough, many years ago, when Bluetooth technology was very young, a colleague of mine who had just been sacked as the CEO of a successful BC company, announced his new venture: a company that would exploit Bluetooth proximity to send local offers to people as they walked by a Bluetooth transmitter. Now I liked the man, but I hated the idea. As it happens (and often happens with startup ideas), his company morphed into something quite different and, apparently, reasonably successful, so good on him.
But now the idea is even worse – at least the Bluetooth scheme did not include constant tracking.
Can Rogers track my location? Yes, even if I turn off “Location Services” on my device. Why? Because my location is an essential part of how the cellular phone system works: if someone calls me, then Rogers needs to find me.
Why does this idea bother me so much? Because it fundamentally changes the nature of the relationship between me and Rogers.
Many people have shown themselves willing to become commodities if they are given something great in return for free. Hence the success of Facebook, Google, Yahoo and many other companies. But in this case, we are paying for cell phone services. A lot of money. Allowing ourselves to become commodities to Rogers that they can sell to “Canada’s best retailers” was never part of the deal. Yes, I can (and did) opt out, but now it seems that Rogers no longer sees me as a customer, but as a roving product with a wallet that Rogers can sell.