AT&T Plans on Selling Your Data to Advertisers, Here’s How to Opt-Out

| Editorial

lolprivacyAT&T recently announced plans to start selling anonymized customer data to advertisers. Heck, if the government gets it, why shouldn't advertisers have it too, amiright? Up here! ::highfive::

After all, why should Facebook, Google, and Verizon get to have all the fun parting us out to the highest bidder? If God had intended for us to have privacy, she wouldn't have invented money. lolprivacyburn! ::highfive::

I joke because if I don't, I'll puke.

What information, you ask? According to its privacy policy, the company is collecting Web Browsing & Wireless Application Information, Location Information, U-verse Information, in addition to account information and Network Performance & Usage Information the company theoretically uses to improve service.

AT&T says it anonymizes and/or aggregates the data. In theory this means it can't be traced to individuals, but forgive us if we have a skeptical attitude about yet another company looking to profit off of our personal data.

"The new programs we are introducing will use aggregate and anonymous data to create marketing and analytics reports, and to allow us to deliver more relevant advertising to our customers," the company said in an update to its privacy policy.

If this little development makes you as cranky as it makes me, you'll want to know how to opt-out, which AT&T was gracious enough to grant us. Never mind that, A.) this practice is absolute bull$&!#, and B.) that it should be opt-in if it's going to exist at all.

Fortunately, our friends at BGR noted that the opt-out mechanism went live today. Hit that link, log in to your AT&T account (you'll need your phone number and online password), and you'll get something that looks like this:

AT&T Form

Opt-Out!

If you have more than one phone number on your account, they'll all be listed. Check the "Check to Out-out" check box, and then Submit. You'll then be taken to this page:

AT&T Note

Manage Your Privacy Choices

U.S. corporations have lost their way on privacy, and U.S. regulators have let them. There is a lot of good that a corporation with huge resources can do with user data, but this business of profiting on it by merely selling it is repugnant.

Location services make our mapping apps work; geotagging on photos is useful and cool; Google Now proactively finds information that we might need or want based on our personal information; showing us things we might find interesting based on our shopping or likes by comparing it to other people's data is very useful; and to be honest, even targeted advertising has its benefits to us, the consumer.

There are many more examples of how companies can use personal information to provide us with better services, but I am sick to death of companies who profit by compiling profiles on us that would make George Orwell blush and then auction them off to the highest bidder.

In AT&T's case, there is no better services argument. This is simply about AT&T making more money off us, its supposed customers. We don't get anything out of it, and it does not benefit us.

It's disgusting.

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Comments

geoduck

Three or four years ago on this very site I commented

Cell technology is great, unless the cell companies screw it up.

This is even more true today. I would like an iPhone. I keep thinking of getting one. Then along come stories like this and a hundred others and I stay with my LG ‘dumb’ phone and iPod Touch. Sure it’s not as convenient as an iPhone. Sure there’s some functions I’m missing, like GPS. But in the balance a phone I leave off 90% of the time and an iPod Touch that I use on any open WiFi I can find is a better solution for me.

Michael Johnston

I remember getting a notice about something like this last year and I thought I had done some sort of opt-out with that. Must have been something else.

Checked the box. Thanks Bryan!

xmattingly

Yeah, it’s not enough that cell companies bill you up the wazoo for the privilege of texting and occasional internet connection. Now AT&T wants to rape the collective’s privacy for a little extra coin? We should all be screaming “bull$&!#”!

I’m with you on the dumbphone/iPod Touch, geoduck… I’m currently rockin’ a several years-old Razr with a badly cracked screen. smile While I’m currently sniffing around for a possible pay-as-you-go iPhone plan (certainly won’t be with AT&T), I value privacy and a far cheaper plan over convenience.

Lee Dronick

I am pretty sure that I opted out sometime ago when I received the initial notice. However, I just reopted out.

christ06

Log in to your att account in a separate tab then click on the “opt-out mechanism” link in the article and it takes you right to the opt-out page in your account.  Very convenient. Much easier than trying to find the page through the att website.

mhikl

You have heart, Bryan, which is why I usually read your articles.

Too many believe that we have come to live in dangerous times (we have always lived in dangerous times; its the degree that matters) and that our gravest enemy is from without (it is not). The chance of a mad-person doing some dastardly deed to you or to me is small. However, the government looks at the collective and then uses the easiest stratagem that affects everyone, regardless the consequences to the greater individual freedoms for a society. And therein lies the fine line between freedom and its lose.

To make clearer the issue, when government becomes so committed to usurping public freedoms, losing perspective to the point that it allows others (corporations) to do the same, then the danger steps beyond the pale and the danger itself subsumes the protector. Cannot freedom of thought also be so challenged!

Our greatest worry should be that literary skills (necessary skills for complex understanding) are falling to a point where we may be entering a dark-age* out of which we cannot climb. Most of our children and peers may have the basic skill of language (reading, texting, verbal) but that is but the grunts and groans to communications and understanding.

Literature speaks stronger than pictures so if you have the skills beyond basic language, go to the source instead of the copy. Read again, and always have on hand both Orwell’s and Kafka’s novels, ‘1984’ and ‘The Trail’. Read them alone and without distraction.

*  “Dark Age Ahead” (from Wikipedia) Dark Age Ahead is a 2004 book by Jane Jacobs describing what she sees as the decay of five key “pillars” in North America: community and family, higher education, science and technology, taxes and government responsive to citizen’s needs, and self-policing by the learned professions.

tweat11

Thanks for this.  I opted out.  I appreciate the heads-up. 

wab95

Heck, if the government gets it, why shouldn’t advertisers have it too, amiright? Up here! ::highfive::

Bryan:

This is the second time in a week that I’ve nearly choked on my morning coffee. Perhaps you’d consider posting a ‘choke alert’ at the head of your snark-laden pieces.

You would appear to have doubts, perhaps a misgiving or two, about the private sector’s practising the principles of capitalism in their most [delete]unprincipled[/delete] unfettered form by [delete]pillaging[/delete] selling our anonymised data to willing, and undoubtedly principled, purchasers.

Why, it is through such offsets that costs to consumers can be lowered, man! Think of it! By selling your data (at a premium, one should add) the carriers will receive revenue which, in a magnanimous gesture of goodwill and glorious generosity, they could very well apply to the cost of those services that generate said data and revenues. And if not, why, they could invest in infrastructural development which, having spent less out of pocket on said development, they could pass along to the customer at a relatively lower cost. More services and at a lower cost!

And they’re selling these data, which means those data are going to other members of the private sector. Who else would pay for data? Anonymously without personal identifiers. Imagine the possibilities, man! What could possibly go wrong? Where is your enthusiasm?

It’s not as if these purchasers in the private sector could hire really smart analysts, or some pre-pubescent geniuses, who would generate models and algorithms with these data that could then be used to strategically target or deny adverts and services to specific regions and demographics (or persons), now could they? After all, those people are already working for Google and Facebook, and they’re already swimming in the stuff. No, these poor sods will be on their own, and will have to just muddle through with, who knows, some high school drop outs. No worries, mate!

 

Bryan Chaffin

You crack me up, too, wab95. smile

You know, I have so many problems with Google’s profile-selling business model, but at least Google gives something back. Every product and service Google offers (and to a lesser extent, Facebook) is intended to gather more information about us, but the company is at least offering those products and services to get that data.

AT&T and Verizon selling our data is nothing but a naked grab for more profits, and as you alluded, none of it will ever benefit us, the product.

gwbeckett

In case you have a landline service from AT&T as well (yes, there are some of us still in that camp!), there is an opt-out for that Home Phone or DSL Account too.  Be sure to verify the opt-out settings on ALL your AT&T lines.

tweat11

Thanks your right it works for home phones too.

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