Verizon's 'Precision Market Insights' Data Mining Policy Raising Privacy Concerns

10/17/2012 08:27 am ET | Updated Oct 17, 2012
  • The Huffington Post

The company's new marketing program, Precision Market Insights, collects data information from iOS and Android users, based on geographic location gleaned from apps and sites being accessed. Verizon plans to continue to share that information with potential advertisers.

At a Paley Center talk earlier this year, Bill Diggins, the U.S. leader for Precision Market Insights, spoke candidly to an audience about the company's capabilities.

"We're able to view just everything they do," said Diggins.

"We realized we had a latent asset. We have information about how customers are using their mobile phones," Colson Hillier, vice president of the initiative, told FierceMobileContent.

Verizon emphasizes that the program is legal and doesn't violate any federal wiretapping or other privacy laws because they keep user identities anonymous.

The company is just the latest mobile carrier to jump on the data-mining bandwagon. In 2010, AT&T began monitoring how and when text messages were sent in order to analyze social trends and human behavior,reports MIT's Technology Review. Though the original intent of the study wasn't commercial, analysis of user data usage is a standard practice among many tech companies.

Sites like Facebook, Google, as well as broadband providers have been criticized in the past for similar data-mining tactics.

What's not well-advertised by mobile providers is the option to opt out of having your data sent to advertisers. Right now, new Verizon customers have 30 days to opt out of having their data mined, though they can log on to their MyVerizon account online to opt out at any other time.

"Sadly, it's just another case of companies failing to respect the preferences of users in an effort to undermine their privacy and monetize their data," Parker Higgins of the digital-rights fighting Electronic Frontier Foundation told NBC News.

Click here for more information on how to control iOS 6's data tracking.

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