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WSJ: Verizon selling customer location data

Posted: , by Alan F.

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WSJ: Verizon selling customer location data
Whenever a Verizon Wireless customer visits a website on his or her smartphone, data such as the name of the site visited, demographic info about the user and his/her location, is being sent out to Precision Market Insights where it is collected and analyzed. This is a product that Verizon launched last October which is offered to certain subscribers like malls, billboard owners, stadiums, etc. These subscribers see the age and location of cellphone users in a certain area, and learn which websites these people are viewing. In Europe, German software firm SAP is offering a similar service that takes information gleaned by carriers and offers it to marketing firms.

And while this all seems remarkably familiar to past battles between handset manufacturers, carriers and privacy groups, even the latter admit that Verizon isn't doing anything wrong. Basically, the carrier says it is not selling information about individuals but is offering data about groups of people. This still is a worry to the ACLU's  privacy specialist Chris Soghoian. He worries that by giving Verizon the incentive to profit from this information, the carrier has a reason to track its customers more closely.

Users can opt out of having their data collected by logging onto Verizon's website. Governmental workers and corporations are not included in the data collection and Verizon says it is following all applicable laws. And it is not just Verizon that is getting into this business. AT&T's Jeff Weber, president of content and advertising sales, says that the operator would love to get into the same business of selling and analyzing data that Verizon is in, while offering customers a way to opt out. But so far, AT&T says it does not have a similar product to Verizon's at this time.

source: WSJ

21 Comments
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posted on 22 May 2013, 01:14 11

1. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


When overcharging your customers for cell phone plans and forcing them into 2 year contracts isn't enough its time to sell their personal data.

posted on 22 May 2013, 07:20 3

6. jsd0108 (Posts: 19; Member since: 11 Mar 2010)


I find it funny that people get all up-in-arms about being tracked through their cellphone, but they probably don't even stop to think about how many hundreds of companies track them on various websites on their computers.

posted on 22 May 2013, 10:50 1

12. phonegeek2 (Posts: 6; Member since: 22 Oct 2012)


I completely agree with you. Every single time you visit a website, people are tracking you, and in today day and age, it's not very hard at all.

posted on 22 May 2013, 11:56 3

13. Droiddoes (unregistered)


How exactly are people "forced" into 2 year contracts? I don't seem to recall anyone holding a gun to my wife's head and saying "sign it or she dies".

You no contract nutjobs, I wish you realized how batsh*t insane you guys sound.

posted on 22 May 2013, 18:05

15. gmracer1 (Posts: 646; Member since: 28 Dec 2012)


Exactly. Some custs b*tch when I tell them they'll be renewing their contract by upgrading, but then I tell them "well, you can still buy the phone and not renew the contract. You'll just pay full retail for the phone and your bill will still remain the same. *checks price* Ok, on this phone, it's gonna be $650" Their eyes light up and the next words out of their mouths are "ok...let's upgrade!" Mwahahahahaaaaa

posted on 23 May 2013, 17:13

21. jcarrigan (unregistered)


hey i dunno about you but they locked me in the back of the verizon store and tore my fingernails out til i agreed to be with verizon for 2 moreyears. lol just kidding yes will the extremists please the article. I am not comfortable paying as much as i do for verizon while there also profiting off my location and what websites im looking at, maybe if they offered me a discount to let them do that then im cool with it. anything for a dicsount.

posted on 22 May 2013, 01:36 5

2. Gawain (Posts: 371; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)


If people are that worried about their privacy, then they should not own a cell phone or have Internet access. My desktop browser probably gathers more data...

posted on 22 May 2013, 04:13 4

3. ocilfa (Posts: 333; Member since: 03 Aug 2012)


People watch porn on their phones. Sell that, Verizon.

posted on 22 May 2013, 04:26 4

4. Giggity (Posts: 147; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)


https://www.eff.org/who-has-your-back-2013

Guess which offender is the worst when it comes down to having no regards for your privacy rights?

posted on 22 May 2013, 06:55

5. DRAPicard (Posts: 24; Member since: 05 Nov 2011)


Thanks for that little article @Giggity!

posted on 22 May 2013, 23:37

17. lsutigers (Posts: 762; Member since: 08 Mar 2009)


Wow, according to this article, Verizon is the only company that pretty much has no policies and practically gives your personal info away.

posted on 23 May 2013, 01:39

19. andynaija (Posts: 485; Member since: 08 Sep 2012)


Hey Giggity can you explain the chart because I see a bunch of stars but I don't actually know which one is the worst. (I'm being serious)

posted on 23 May 2013, 03:47

20. Giggity (Posts: 147; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)


Require a warrant for content of communications: In this new category, companies earn recognition if they require the government to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before they will hand over the content of user communications. This policy ensures that private messages stored by online services like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are treated consistently with the protections of the Fourth Amendment.

Tell users about government data requests: To earn a star in this category, Internet companies must promise to tell users when the government seeks their data unless prohibited by law. This gives users a chance to defend themselves against overreaching government demands for their data.

Publish transparency reports: We award companies a star in this category if they publish statistics on how often they provide user data to the government.

Publish law enforcement guidelines: Companies get a star in this category if they make public policies or guidelines they have explaining how they respond to data demands from the government, such as guides for law enforcement.

Fight for users’ privacy rights in courts: To earn recognition in this category, companies must have a public record of resisting overbroad government demands for access to user content in court.1

Fight for users’ privacy in Congress: Internet companies earn a star in this category if they support efforts to modernize electronic privacy laws to defend users in the digital age by joining the Digital Due Process Coalition.

posted on 22 May 2013, 09:40 1

7. TheRetroReplay (Posts: 245; Member since: 20 Mar 2012)


I opted out of that the second I heard about it, it's not right that any cell phone carrier profits by selling their customer data that they collected while still charging the customer outrageous fees. If they're selling data that they collect on you, they should at least have the common decency to discount your bill.

posted on 22 May 2013, 10:22 1

9. kaintae (Posts: 61; Member since: 14 Dec 2011)


While I understand what you're saying in principle, I wouldn't say that a for profit company legally making money off of it's customers is "not right." I would say it's what every business tries to do. Is there something you're trying to hide?

posted on 22 May 2013, 10:17

8. Whateverman (Posts: 3231; Member since: 17 May 2009)


What!? VZW selling their customer's info just to make a buck?...

Who didn't see this coming? But to be fair they probably aren't the only carrier doing it.

posted on 22 May 2013, 10:25

10. johnriii (Posts: 230; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


I GUARANTEE you they aren't the only one doing it. it's quite obvious Verizon doesn't care what the masses thinks, because they throw out information like this with impunity. you can't tell me they don't have someone collecting information from sites like PA, Phonedog and others. most of the user comments are pretty negative. but 497 markets covered by 4G LTE is pretty freaking awesome, I must say.

posted on 22 May 2013, 23:39

18. lsutigers (Posts: 762; Member since: 08 Mar 2009)


Well look at the article posted by Giggity above, if it's accurate, Verizon is pretty much the worst offender on the list with no regard for their customer's privacy.

posted on 22 May 2013, 10:48 2

11. dwillopp (Posts: 18; Member since: 08 Jul 2010)


It is very easy to opt-out. No need to cry, just opt-out.

posted on 22 May 2013, 11:57 1

14. Droiddoes (unregistered)


But this is AMERICA! Whining and crying is the best, nay, the ONLY option when unhappy with something!

posted on 22 May 2013, 19:17

16. MorePhonesThanNeeded (Posts: 645; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)


I forgot that I opted out of this last year when they introduced it. This is for those who missed that boat.

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