Feeds

Verizon users must 'opt in' for privacy

You are the product, even if you're paying for the service

Security for virtualized datacentres

US operator Verizon Wireless is to log, and sell, customers' browsing and location history, unless the customers specifically opt out of being tracked at every turn.

Only anonymised data will be sold, according to an email sent out to customers and an update of the telco's privacy policy, but internally Verizon will use profiles of its customers based on the URLs visited, the handset and features they use, as well as their physical location. Personal data will be used for accurate delivery of advertisements, while anonymous statistics will be sold to analysts and other interested parties.

Click for close-up look at the T&Cs...

That means a website that discovers it is receiving significant traffic from Verizon customers (based on the originating IP address) could ask the operator for a breakdown by age, or gender, for a fee. Meanwhile an advertiser could ask Verizon to target customers of a specific demographic, using a specific model of phone, within a specific location, unless the customers have manually opted out of the system.

Profiling customers is something many operators do, but generally with the permission of those customers and in exchange for a bribe of some sort. In the UK, O2 More and Orange Shots both promise exclusive offers and tokens, and the popularity of both services proves customers will exchange privacy for cheap stuff, but Verizon is taking that stage further by assuming consent and failing to offer a bribe.

Customers may decide to opt out, but the operator warns that "You will receive mobile ads whether you participate or not, but under the advertising program, ads may be more relevant to you".

All mobile operators are sitting on mountains of information, in fact the pure volume of data often intimidates operators into shying away from making use of it. Five years ago Malaysian operators were mining call records to identify popular teenagers, to discover who's worth advertising to, in one example of just how far operators could go.

In Europe the operators have moved very cautiously, with opt-in schemes such as O2 More and Orange Shots, as legislators stand ready to knock them back at the first sign of customer backlash.

In the USA privacy hasn't been such a big deal, and Verizon is taking a significant step forwards in assuming consent for targeted advertising and reselling of demographic data, it will be up to the customers to decide if they're prepared to let that happen. ®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
This flashlight app requires: Your contacts list, identity, access to your camera...
Who us, dodgy? Vast majority of mobile apps fail privacy test
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.