Verizon app usage monitoring raises consumer privacy fears
Consumer privacy advocates are calling into question a new Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) program that offers marketers information on subscribers' mobile Web and application usage patterns.
Verizon recently launched Precision Mobile Insights, which collects information on millions of subscribers to help advertisers identify information like which iOS and Android apps are in use in which geographic regions. According to Verizon, Precision Mobile Insights does not run afoul of legal issues because all data is aggregated and does not reveal subscribers' identities. In addition, customers may opt-out at any time.
But Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tells CNet that any wireless carrier that discloses information about which URLs a customer visits could violate the Wiretap Act, a federal law aimed at protecting consumer privacy in their communications with other persons. The Wiretap Act states that carriers may not "divulge the contents of any communication."
"I don't see any substantive difference between collecting content from one person and turning it over to someone, and collecting it from multiple people, aggregating that information and then turning the aggregated data over to someone else," Fakhoury says. "In the end, there is still a capturing of content from the user at some point--and that's what the potential [Wiretap Act] problem is."
Although Verizon Wireless declined to answer CNet's questions about the technology powering Precision Mobile Insights, the company did provide a statement reading "Verizon is committed to customer privacy and takes the issue seriously. The Precision program complies with the law and protects the privacy of our customers. The reports available through the program will not disclose the content of specific customer communications because each report will contain aggregate data from a large number of customers to protect privacy. Customers who do not want their data used as part of the program can opt-out at any time."
- read this CNet article
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