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Verizon Wireless now tracking, sharing sites you visit

Verizon Wireless has information about changes to its customers' privacy on its website (see link in story).

By Josh Kirschner, Techlicious.com

Verizon Wireless announced it is changing its privacy policy in ways that should create significant concerns for customers. Under the new policy, Verizon Wireless will be tracking the websites you visit, the apps you use and the location of your phone, and using this information to provide targeted mobile advertising and "certain business and marketing reports."

Verizon will also be sharing this information with third parties, though the company claims it will be on an aggregated basis that won't reveal personally identifiable information. However, Verizon is storing that personally identifiable information in its own databases, and there is no guarantee that the information provided to third parties cannot be used to determine individual user identities.

According to Verizon, specific information collected includes:

  • Addresses of websites you visit (which may include search terms you used)
  • Location of your device
  • App and device feature usage
  • Information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features, device type, and amount
  • of use)
  • Demographic and interest categories provided to us by other companies, such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner ("Demographics")

Fortunately, Verizon allows customers to opt-out of this data collection by visiting www.vzw.com/myprivacy or calling 1-866-211-0874. If you have a Family SharePlan or multi-line account, you must indicate your choice for each line.

It's worth noting that while Verizon may have gone a step further than other carriers in how it uses your personal information for marketing purposes, a recent investigation by the ACLU found that all of the carriers store a significant amount of information about you and what you do on your phone. Though that information may not be used for marketing purposes, it could be accessed by law enforcement or through other legal proceedings. And any time data is being stored, there's always the risk that it could be released by accident or through hacking. And because it's not used for marketing, you can't opt out.

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