Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AT&T...Oh Yeah, By The Way We're Selling Your Location Data

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 as companies promise, and neither want new privacy protections put in place. Years after establishing a framework for collecting and selling user location data, AT&T has now kindly seen fit to update their privacy policy, 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?

Read the rest of the discussion here....

AT&T Selling Location Data

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