Your Wireless Carrier Is Watching You — & Selling Your Info

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_55A0013Photographed by Mark Iantosca.


There's been plenty of recent buzz about how the U.S. government is snooping a little too much into our personal lives, but apparently Big Brother isn't the only one trying to collect our deets. The biggest breach of our privacy might just come via what many consider their lifeline: our cell phones. According to CNNMoney, the four major mobile carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint — all collect data on their customers, which they then aggregate and sell to other companies. Yep, you heard that right: The data on your cell phone is collected, used to profile you, and sold to businesses that want the dirt on potential consumers. What's being collected? Think everything from those app-purchased concert tickets to the particulars of your cab ride home last night.

Verizon offered up some details to CNNMoney about how the company’s program, Precision Market Insights, is using your data. According to a spokeswoman, when you purchase a plan with Verizon, you "agree to let the company use your location, web searches, app usage and other data,” although you can apparently opt-out later. That's a lot of personal data. Verizon reports that any “personally identifying information” is stripped from the data before it's put into the collection. It's then organized so that marketers from other companies can pay to gain some insight about the users.

So, how does it work exactly? Take the Phoenix Suns basketball team, which paid Verizon to learn more about the people attending their games. From the collected data, the team's management discovered the average salaries of attendees, along with their ages and ethnicities, how they traveled to and from the game, and even which neighboring bars they visited after the game.

Obviously, consumers and privacy advocates are not pleased to learn that this info is being collected and sold, even if opting out is an option. Our advice? Always read the fine print when you're signing up for a service — and make the opt-out button your friend. (CNNMoney)