Verizon criticized for selling app usage and web browsing data

October 16, 2012
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If you’re a Verizon subscriber, you may just have reason to be concerned. Starting this October, Verizon has been offering reports to marketers that show what Verizon subscribers are doing on their smartphones, including app usage and mobile web browsing data.

“We’re able to view just everything that they do,” boasted Bill Diggins, who heads the marketing initiative in the U.S. called Precision Market Insights. “And that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil,” Diggins said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized the move as a violation of federal wiretapping laws, which stipulate that telecommunications carriers may not “divulge the contents of any communication.” However, Verizon says the customer information is aggregated, and that no user-identifiable information and identities are revealed.

The Precision program complies with the law and protects the privacy of our customers. The reports available through the program will not disclose the content of specific customer communications because each report will contain aggregate data from a large number of customers to protect privacy. Customers who do not want their data used as part of the program can opt-out at any time.

CNet likens the move to how Google and Facebook collect information from users and monetize these through ads and other marketing initiatives. However, the difference is that Verizon — and other telecommunications carriers — are paid subscription fees, which means they should not be looking into other means to monetize their users’ usage.

Any Verizon users out there? Are you concerned that Verizon might be selling your information?

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