If you have a phone with Verizon service you are likely being tracked and your personal information is being sold and shared with Verizon’s partners. I just discovered this based on an article in The Verge.
According to the report by Emma Roth, “The My Verizon app might be collecting information about your browsing history, location, apps, and your contacts, all in the name of helping the company “understand your interests,” first spotted by Input. The program, which Verizon appears to automatically opt customers into, is called Verizon Custom Experience and lays buried in the privacy settings on the app.”
The My Verizon app that comes on Verizon phones is designed to help you manage your account, add new services, and review your bills.
When I opened My Verizon app and clicked on the gear symbol, then selected “Manage Privacy Settings,” it took me to a page titled “Set privacy preferences,” followed by a list of all seven of the phones on my Family Plan, plus a watch and tablet also on the plan. Included were two phones belonging to minors in my family.
When I clicked on each device, one by one, I got to another page with six options, each requiring you to opt out. Two of the options are labeled as Custom Experience and Custom Experience Plus, each of which varies in terms, but both highly invasive. All options were turned on, meaning all phones were set to the least amount of privacy.
Verizon explains that these settings, “Help Verizon personalize its communication with you and “give you more relevant product and service recommendations” by using “information about websites you visit and apps you use on your mobile device.” That’s bullshit as we know, and simply means we want to sweep up all your data so we can sell it to others.
To opt out, you need to turn each setting off for each phone and device, a laborious process. There is no “opt-out for all,” of course. In my case, there were almost 50 settings to opt out for all of the devices. After all were turned off, I discovered another setting to “Block” the line from having the service turned on again.
Now, I’ve never give Verizon permission for any of this, so these options were opted-in without my permission, or perhaps disclosed in terms and conditions of some random email. Not only were they tracking my account, but they were tracking the account of two minors on my family plan. I had assumed it was illegal to track minors!
I contacted Verizon support three times via Twitter, but have not received a response.
This is a flagrant abuse of tracking, especially from a company that we spend thousands of dollars with each year.
What about the other carriers? According to TheVerge, “In April, T-Mobile started automatically enrolling users in a program that shares your data with advertisers unless you manually opt-out from your privacy settings. On AT&T’s privacy center, the company says that it collects web and browsing information, along with the apps you use, and that you can manage these settings from AT&T’s site.