Just like our Facebook posts create histories of our lives that can’t be erased, we generate indelible electronic paper trails whenever we use our mobile devices. Verizon Wireless is only the latest tech company to collect information on its subscribers and then sell it to advertisers who might be interested in seeing what we buy and where.
Verizon calls their new data collection program “Precision Market Insights.” Verizon collects geographic data from the apps we use and the websites we access. They then turn around and share the information with businesses that are interested in selling us stuff through advertising on our smartphones and other mobile devices.
Verizon is adamant that the program is legal and doesn't violate any privacy laws because they keep user identities anonymous. Earlier this year, Bill Diggins, the U.S. head of Precision Market Insights, spoke about what the Verizon program allows the company to do. Of subscribers Diggins said, "We're able to view just everything they do.”
Verizon is latest mobile service provider to use what’s called “data-mining.” MIT’s Technology Review reported that in 2010 AT&T began tracking how and when text messages are sent. They believe these are indicators of social trends and human behavior. The MIT researchers also stated that many tech companies perform similar data analyses. Facebook and Google have been doing it for awhile, too.
What cell companies don’t want you to know is that you can opt out of these kinds of data-mining programs. In the case of Verizon, customers can log in to their MyVerizon account and opt out any time.