I Just Sold My Phone Number to Google for the Price of a Latte

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Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg / Getty Images

I feel so cheap. After years of turning down Google’s request for my number, I handed it over today for a lousy $5.

It must have been the promise of coffee that made me do it. In case you missed it, Google Offers had a deal last week that lets you buy $10 of Starbucks fare for $5. A free five bucks! Who wouldn’t pounce on that?

I certainly did. But in my caffeine-infected greed, I didn’t pause to wonder why the Starbucks offer required users to pay with the PayPal-like service, Google Wallet.

The offer is no doubt intended to get more people to use Google Wallet, a product that is having some hiccups.

But the Wallet process also did something else — it coaxed Gmail users to turn over a phone number.

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This is not a big deal for newer Gmail users who gave Google a phone number when they activated their account.

But some longtime Gmail users like me have never given out their number — and turned down Google’s repeated requests to provide it (Google says doing so will help with “account recovery”).

Now, thanks to privacy policies that let it consolidate information across various products, Google can use the Wallet purchase to associate my phone number with my email account. These sort of combinations are part of Google’s new efforts to build personal profiles of users to sell to advertisers.

This is not the end of the world, of course. Companies like Apple and Facebook also have my phone number. The issue is instead that privacy has become a commodity and, well, I just sold mine for the price of a venti Frappucino.

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