AT and T Selling Your Data Like Never Before – Here’s How to Opt Out

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  • AT and T Selling Your Data Like Never Before – Here’s How to Opt Out

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Your smartphone is ‘spying’ on you, and you may not even realize it. Oh, we don’t mean spying in the traditional sense, but it sits there in your pocket or purse, day and night, silently collecting – and sharing – data about you. Because, and especially if you are with either Verizon or AT&T, your smartphone is phoning home to the carrier mothership with all of this data, where they are bundling it up and selling it to advertisers and marketers and the like (hopefully after scrubbing it free of identifying information, as they claim they are, but..).

In the latest installment of this ongoing juggernaut against your privacy, AT&T has updated their privacy policy to allow them to group your data with the data of others in your location, using their geolocation abilities, to allow them to sell that data to advertisers in your area, which will in turn allow those advertisers to push targeted ads to your phone.

For example, explains AT&T, “People who live in a particular geographic area might appear to be very interested in movies, thanks to collective information that shows wireless devices from that area are often located in the vicinity of movie theaters. We might create a “movies” characteristic for that area, and deliver movie ads to the people who live there.”

Here is the full and (relatively) plain English explanation, posted by AT&T’s CPO (Chief Privay Officer), Bob Quinn:

 

[Note: instructions on how to opt out of AT&T selling this data follow this information.]


In today’s online world, many companies are increasingly using customer data to help personalize and improve the products and services they offer consumers.

All of us are familiar with Facebook serving ads to its users based on common interests they have explicitly or implicitly documented on Facebook. And we know that Google collects information and uses that to provide us with information and ads.

In our own industry, Verizon uses anonymous and aggregate customer data to create marketing reports that help other companies better serve their customers.

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At AT&T, we similarly plan to provide our customers with these sorts of personalized services and we’re committed to doing so in line with our longstanding policy to respect and protect our customers’ privacy.

Today, we posted an updated Privacy Policy that outlines a couple of new programs we plan to offer and, importantly, reasserts our privacy commitment. We are publishing this policy in a preview mode and we invite your comments and suggestions during our 30-day feedback period.

The new policy does a couple of things. First, we have tried to make it easier for our customers to understand the data we collect, how we use it, and how we protect it. Second, we have structured our policy in a manner that provides very straightforward consumer controls over the data we obtain from you or through your use of our services, websites and applications. Many of these changes are derived from customer research in which we asked customers how they want to hear about these topics.

We like to think about data and use of data in three large contexts:

Providing You Service and Improving Our Network and Services: We use network data to provide our voice, Internet and video services and to fix any issues that cause service problems. What do I mean? The network locates your mobile device to complete a call or to deliver the location-based services you want. We also check how our network is performing for you at various locations so we can improve those spots that need it. We use this type of information to make our products and services better, and as a guide to let you know about new AT&T products and services that you might like.

Personal Information: We know our customers care about privacy just as we do. So, we also worked to provide greater transparency and customer controls over how your data is used. We don’t sell your personal information, and we won’t use it (other than to provide and improve your services as discussed above) unless you tell us you want us to do that. For example, we offer an application called AT&T Alerts. It provides you great discounts on AT&T and AT&T partner products and services. It might send you a coupon if you happen to be near one of our partner retailers. But you have to sign up for AT&T Alerts to get the service. In other words, we use your personal information for this program only if you tell us in advance that you want us to do that.

Aggregate and Anonymous Data: This is data that can’t be tracked back to you individually. Here’s an easy example: After an election in your community, officials will release the final vote tally. They might say that 60 percent of the voters picked Candidate A and 40 percent picked Candidate B. That information is a type of aggregate and anonymous data. It’s “aggregate” because it combines information for the whole community telling you who the community as a whole voted for, and it is anonymous because the data doesn’t tell you who voted for which candidate. In the Internet world, aggregate and anonymous data can be used by retailers, advertisers and marketing companies to figure out what consumers want in a particular area. You benefit by having better products available and seeing advertising more relevant to your particular consumer segment.

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AT and T Selling Your Data Like Never Before – Here’s How to Opt Out

The new programs we are introducing will use aggregate and anonymous data to create marketing and analytics reports, and to allow us to deliver more relevant advertising to our customers. In creating these programs, we wanted to make sure they fit with our privacy commitments. That’s why we also created consumer controls that will allow you to choose not to have your anonymous information included in these reports, and to choose not to receive the more relevant advertising if you don’t want it. To be clear, you will still receive the same number of ads, they just won’t be as relevant. Of critical importance to our customers is the fact that these programs are based on strictly anonymous information, and they are designed for insight into groups, not individuals.

You’ll find more detail in our Privacy Policy on these three broad categories of data, as well as the choices we give you to control how your data is used.

You’ll find our Privacy Policy and other explanatory materials about our new programs on our privacy website. We hope you’ll take a look at what we are doing and tell us what you think.

 

Ok, are your eyes glazed over yet? Pulse raised? Hang in there with us… here is the specific information, direct from AT&T, about these two new programs, along with where you can opt-out:

“The first program will make reports available to businesses. These reports will contain anonymous information about groups of customers, such as how they collectively use our products and services. The second program will use local geography as a factor in delivering online and mobile ads to the people who might find them most useful.

Program One: “External Marketing & Analytics Reports”

We will make reports available to businesses to help them serve their customers better. These reports will contain anonymous information about our customers, such as how they use our products and services. The identity of individual customers is removed, and the information is used in a group, or aggregate, format.

For example, we might provide reports to retailers about the number of wireless devices in or near their store locations by time of day and day of week, together with the device users’ collective information like ages and gender. This might allow a retailer in your neighborhood to learn more about local consumers as a group, but not about anyone individually, to improve its service.

You can choose to have your anonymous information excluded from these reports – things like wireless location information, U-verse information, and website browsing or mobile application usage.

 

Program Two: Relevant Advertising including “Wireless Location Characteristics”

Relevant advertising from AT&T uses information from a variety of sources to help deliver online and mobile ads that you might find useful. We’re currently creating a new “wireless location characteristic” that will help us use local geography as a factor in delivering ads. This doesn’t mean you’ll get more ads. It means that the ads that you do get from AT&T may be more suited to your interests.

Location characteristics are types of locations – like “movie theaters.” People who live in a particular geographic area might appear to be very interested in movies, thanks to collective information that shows wireless devices from that area are often located in the vicinity of movie theaters. We might create a “movies” characteristic for that area, and deliver movie ads to the people who live there.

Personal information is not shared with advertisers, but if you don’t want to receive this type of ad from us, you have that choice. You will still receive the same number of ads. {Ed. note: Oh goody.} They just might not be as relevant to you.”

Ok, here is the information you most want – how to opt the hell out of these programs:

To opt-out of the first, “External Marketing & Analytics Reports”, program, either visit here, or call 866-344-9850.

To opt-out of the second, “Relevant Advertising including “Wireless Location Characteristics”, program (or to change your preferences, where you can’t completely opt out) go here from your computer. Or, you can go here on your mobile devices. Note that you must opt-out from EVERY browser and wireless device individually!

Finally, you may find some other AT&T goodies from which to opt-out here.

  
No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free? Thank you!

AT and T Selling Your Data Like Never Before – Here’s How to Opt Out

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