Verizon: Can you track me now?
October 16, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Verizon draws fire for monitoring app usage, browsing habits: Verizon Wireless has begun selling information about its customers' geographical locations, app usage, and Web browsing activities. The company this month began offering reports to marketers showing what Verizon subscribers are doing on their phones and other mobile devices, including what iOS and Android apps are in use in which locations. Verizon says it may link the data to third-party databases with information about customers' gender, age, and even details such as "sports enthusiast, frequent diner or pet owner."

The data is gathered at the point of usage, and there's a noticible difference between the broadly written permission to gather the data and the privacy policy stating it will be anonymised before being shared with third parties. That gap indicates that Verizon probably associates it with their customers' personal data internally. Verizon customers have the option to turn the data gathering off for the first 30 days of the contract only; if this is you, you might wish to go here to opt out.
posted by jaduncan (19 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, if you don't like it, just switch to AT&T, amirite?!

(Remember when we broke up a monolithic telecom by using antitrust laws? Good times.)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:54 AM on October 16, 2012


Verizon - "We have a terrible idea that will send our users into red, screaming rage-fits!"

AT&T - "YES! YES! YES! WE WILL DO IT, TOO, AND WORSE!"

T-Mobile - "Us too, I guess?"

Sprint - "I can't believe I'm losing to these guys."
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Well, we are more than 30 days into our VZW contract, but they at least let me click the buton for 'do not share'.

From the verizon website's wall of text above this opt out radio button:

Verizon Wireless may use mobile usage information and consumer Information for certain business and marketing reports. Mobile usage information includes the addresses or information in URLs (such as search terms) of websites you visit when you use our wireless service, the location of your device ("Location Information"), and your use of applications and features. Consumer information includes information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features,device type, and amount of use) as well as demographic and interest categories provided to us by other companies (such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner). We will combine this information in a manner that does not personally identify you. We will use this information to prepare business and marketing reports that we may use ourselves or share with others.


The privacy right clearinghouse website has a detailed FAQ about consumer privacy & cellphones. (A bit broader than just that, but it does cover in detail consumer privacy issues.)
posted by lyra4 at 12:05 PM on October 16, 2012


I wish more people would realize that there is no such thing as anonymous data. There are no longer any guarantees of privacy, so long as there is money to be made from your information. People have, for the last decade, become more willing to share personal information, which increases the threshold that companies collect information. There is no going back.

You have to assume that every single thing you do on any connected device is being mined, collected, analyzed, and shared with marketers. The easy solution is simply to not use the technology. Root your devices, but assume they're being monitored on the other end. Explicitly use encryption if you're concerned with privacy, but once a signal is out in the open, you cannot stop it.

About the Verizon situation, my guess is they did absolutely no age verification. So any child under 13 had to get explicit permission to have their usage tracked, which I doubt Verizon received. It seems risky on their end to even try this, as it opens them up to a COPP-based lawsuit.
posted by spiderskull at 12:12 PM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


About the Verizon situation, my guess is they did absolutely no age verification. So any child under 13 had to get explicit permission to have their usage tracked, which I doubt Verizon received. It seems risky on their end to even try this, as it opens them up to a COPP-based lawsuit.

Given that this was regarding monitoring phones are provided service based on an actual signed contract, I would imagine very hard that there's a clause that allows this and (in the opinion of VZW legal) deals with the COPP/child-user issues.
posted by jaduncan at 12:23 PM on October 16, 2012


> You have to assume that every single thing you do on any connected device is being mined, collected, analyzed, and shared with marketers. The easy solution is simply to not use the technology.

For much of the first world, "just don't use it" isn't really an option. And just acquiescing and saying, "assume all your data is being mined" is giving up instantly.

There needs to be a quid pro quo, and it needs to be ensconced in law. In the case of paid providers, they should not be allowed to monetize your data individually or statistically unless you have explicitly opted in.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:30 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You are the product AND you're paying for it. Kind of like cable, where you pay $50 a month for the pleasure of viewing their advertisements.
posted by mike_bling at 12:34 PM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Are they doing this on land-based FIOS also?
posted by BentFranklin at 12:53 PM on October 16, 2012


This is remarkably vague, but it sounds like they are just scanning network usage, yes?

Or it something more sinister like a background app tabulating what is running on your phone?

Because "app usage" to me is:
21:37 Loaded Angry Birds.
22:15 Loaded Twitter
22:17 Loaded Browser

The press releases though, seem to imply they know if you've viewed the espn website (whether through the espn app or through a browser, it's essentially the same thing).
posted by madajb at 12:58 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whenever these privacy things come up I really want something like a consumer reports for big data, where consumers can share information on quality, customer support, etc. It seems like a lot of information assymetries are lining up on the side of huge corporations, but there's no reason that this has to be the case.
posted by The Ted at 1:03 PM on October 16, 2012


Advertisers launch campaign to bury "unfavorable media attention" over tracking
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on October 16, 2012


And just acquiescing and saying, "assume all your data is being mined" is giving up instantly.

The war is over. We lost.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


It would be hard for me to explain on a website how much I hate Verizon. I could tell you stories about service outages, clueless customer service and shaky business practices that would make your nipples hurt. In my book the MTA runs a close second to Verizon.
posted by nowhere man at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone interested in using SSL as much as possible can use this plugin in Firefox. Not a silver bullet, but better than nothing.

Remember kids, PRACTICE SAFE CYBERSEX.
posted by butterstick at 1:59 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


cyanogenmod
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 2:13 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


cyanogenmod

I almost titled this "Cyanogenmod: why we fight", so yeah.
posted by jaduncan at 2:46 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Verizon draws fire for monitoring app usage
Verizon's thoughtful and considered response.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:56 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The easy solution is simply to not use the technology.

The hard, but more satisfying solution is to flaunt your data and not buy crap the marketers throw at you.
posted by 3FLryan at 5:40 PM on October 16, 2012


Why not go though a VPN ? I haven't tried but that shuts down a lot of what vzw can see.
posted by birdherder at 5:49 PM on October 16, 2012


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