AT&T: Oh Yeah, By The Way We're Selling Your Location Data
But Don't Worry, We're Really Committed to Privacy
by Karl Bode 09:07AM Wednesday Jul 03 2013 Tipped by Bill Neilson
Both Verizon and AT&T haven't much wanted to really talk about
the billions they're now making by selling your location data, given said data likely isn't as secure or anonymous
, in a blog post
(via Fierce Wireless
) promising users that there's no way this data collection could possibly go wrong, because said data is anonymous:
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.
Said data is being sold to everyone from civil engineers to marketing firms, except as studies have recently shown
, that data isn't really anonymous, and it only takes a few additional contextual clues to identify users. Not to worry, though, because AT&T promises that you're in control of this whole thing, and they won't sell a shred of data unless you approve of it:
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.
Granted your approval for the lion's share of location data sales comes in the form of approving AT&T's massive end user agreement, which you have to approve if you want service. That's not really much of a choice, particularly if AT&T is your only real option for a particular service. There are a number of opt out options here
, but prepare to spend a little time doing so. AT&T doesn't specify how your private location data is secured.
In a letter to subscribers
(pdf), AT&T promises that they're "committed to protecting your privacy," and "committed to listening" to your feedback, two things they've repeatedly shown historically to be almost comically awful at
. In short your location data creates huge new targets for hackers and there's no consumer protections at play, but you can trust a company with a vast history of bad corporate behavior to do the right thing. Feel better?
Selling for decades... I am not surprised. The telcos sold your info when there was the phonebook and yellowpages. Everyone that "leased" a phone (you never owned that phone back then...from MaBell), to anyone that had a line(s) to their home or business, your information was peddled.
Think that magazine subscription to Popular Mechanics was innocent? Think again...you are money to them. To Google. To Yahoo. To AOL. To Verizon. To Microsoft. To Amazon. To Apple.
I was told once that databases are the future. To mine. To sell.
Some call it profiling. Marketeers call it money. Your demographics, spending habits, credit scores, travel, tolls, gas stations, coffee, ... even those "shopper cards" that get you a discount at Acme or Wegmans... all track what you bought, when you shop, how much you are worth.
But what annoys me the most with the phone companies are the bogus fees they pad in. That has to stop.
| |IowaCowboyIowa nativePremiumReviews:
HIPAA It would be nice if we could have rules similar to HIPAA but for consumer information.
Maybe we could claim HIPAA violations against AT&T, especially when we go to clinics that we don't want many people knowing we go there like mental health, alcohol/substance abuse, or other clinics that we don't anyone know where we are going. Many people take their mobile devices with them to these facilities.
If AT&T wants to continue this behavior, they should create a map of locations that should be off limits to location tracking such as ALL healthcare facilities (including doctor's offices, hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, mental health/substance abuse facilities, etc), domestic violence shelters, social service agencies, and any other facility that is bound to keep client information confidential. And they should create a buffer around the general location of these facilities so that they don't know which facility you are going into (like the laundromat next to psychologist's office).
If they were to create "do not track" locations, the North End in Springfield MA should be off limits due to the fact there are a lot of doctor's offices/medical facilities in that area.
AT&T may face legal implications for tracking every move, especially when that tracking follows someone into a healthcare facility thanks to HIPAA.
I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.
I have not and will not cut the cord.