The Tech Herald

Verizon Wireless to collect and sell usage data

by Steve Ragan - Oct 18 2011, 17:18

Verizon Wireless to collect and sell usage data. Image: HTC/Verizon.

Verizon Wireless, the largest cellular carrier in the U.S., had decided to track customer usage and location, and sell it. To make sure everyone is included, they’ve already enrolled their entire customer base into the new program. If you want privacy, you have to opt-in to it instead of expecting it automatically.

Information is a hot commodity. There isn’t a business in operation today that doesn’t know this, and Verizon Wireless is no exception. Customers have already accepted that Verizon devices come pre-loaded with software that many don’t use, in order to offset cost.

Now, unless specifically told otherwise, Verizon’s subsidization includes the collection of browsing data, location, device, application usage, subscription plan (data and calling features, amount of usage), and demographic information handed to them by third-parties.

The concerning part is that URL strings are collected, including search terms and other data. Verizon says they will not sell information that can be used to identify customers. So who will Verizon sell the information to, and what will it be used for? According to the customer email, the data will be sold for marketing mostly.

For example, usage and other customer information will go into a report on how many people visited a sporting website within a given month, including selected demographic information. It can be used to generate reports on the number of people taking a given route during peak traffic periods.

The other aspect is advertising. The collected information will be used to focus ads, something that businesses will pay top dollar for.

“A local restaurant may want to advertise only to people who live within 10 miles, and we might help deliver that ad on a website...,” Verizon’s email explains.

In the email to customers, Verizon repeated that they are not sharing personal information several times, but some customers simply do not want information shared in the first place. They take issue with the fact that Verizon enrolled all of their customers first, and then told them about it later.

The new privacy policy changes that triggered the data collection went into effect last month, so those who opt-out of the collection today, were already monitored.

To opt-out, you need to access your account online, and follow the instructions. Head HERE to leave the data collection program.

Keep in mind, Verizon notes, “that if you add or change a number, you must indicate your privacy election with respect to each individual or new line.”

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