WSJ: Verizon selling customer location data

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



1. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 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.

6. jsd0108

Posts: 19; Member since: Mar 11, 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.

12. phonegeek2

Posts: 12; Member since: Oct 22, 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.

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.

15. gmracer1

Posts: 646; Member since: Dec 28, 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

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.

2. Gawain

Posts: 441; Member since: Apr 15, 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...

3. ocilfa

Posts: 334; Member since: Aug 03, 2012

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

4. Giggity

Posts: 147; Member since: Nov 17, 2011 Guess which offender is the worst when it comes down to having no regards for your privacy rights?

5. DRAPicard

Posts: 27; Member since: Nov 05, 2011

Thanks for that little article @Giggity!

17. lsutigers

Posts: 832; Member since: Mar 08, 2009

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

19. andynaija

Posts: 1261; Member since: Sep 08, 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)

20. Giggity

Posts: 147; Member since: Nov 17, 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.

7. TheRetroReplay

Posts: 256; Member since: Mar 20, 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.

9. kaintae

Posts: 98; Member since: Dec 14, 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?

8. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 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.

10. johnriii

Posts: 248; Member since: Oct 17, 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.

18. lsutigers

Posts: 832; Member since: Mar 08, 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.

11. dwillopp

Posts: 18; Member since: Jul 08, 2010

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

14. Droiddoes unregistered

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

16. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

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

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.