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WSJ: Verizon selling customer location data

Posted: , 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

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