Verizon Scoffs at your Privacy

by Matt Klassen on October 18, 2011

In this modern age of location aware mobile devices there’s no question that privacy has been a hot button issue, with users demanding smarter and more intuitive phones while concomitantly holding tight to their personal information, and, for the most part, mobile companies have tried publicly to hold that delicate balance in tension.

Most of the privacy scandals in the technology world over the past few months, in fact, have been of an accidental sort; location awareness programs unintentionally tracking and storing users’ movement patterns, that sort of thing. While many doubt the ‘accidental’ nature of these privacy infringements, after stating such many of the offending companies quickly changed how their apps, software, and devices monitor our whereabouts.

But then along comes Verizon, a company that makes no bones about how it intends to use its new policies to play fast and loose with your private information, and if you don’t read the fine printwell, you’ve just signed yourself up. 

Looking to increase its mobile advertising revenues, Verizon has altered its privacy policy to allow it to do, well, whatever it wants with your private information. The company has stated that the new privacy policy will permit the company to track and record your Web browsing habits, your location, and your mobile app usage in an effort to gain a better understanding of each user’s unique interests.

Now Verizon itself cares very little about your usage habits, so long as you don’t hog too much of its wireless spectrum, so the natural course of action for Verizon is to sell all this useful marketing information to third-party companies…which of course the revisions in its privacy policy give it full rights to do.

The only consolation, if it can even be considered as such, is that when Verizon sells your private usage habits to some third party marketing agency, it will apparently by that time have made them anonymous, so really only Verizon will know your whereabouts and private Internet proclivities.

Now before you start blaming Verizon for its cocksure attitude and reckless use of your personal information, the truth is that Verizon isn’t the first to do this, it’s simply the first to be honest about it. All of the major mobile operating system, be it iOS, Android, or WP7, have all been found to have latent tracking abilities, embedded software that records and transmits your usage habits. Now of course these companies have played innocent when confronted with privacy allegations, but you’d be silly to think that they didn’t know exactly what they were doing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be disgusted with what Verizon is trying to do. While unfortunately not illegal, as a private company can really do whatever it wants to its privacy policies, this continued erosion of our privacy in the mobile sphere is certainly nothing short of unethical, particularly given the fact that this new policy revision is opt-out, meaning that by default you are included.

The question remains, what are you going to do about it? The reality is that in this modern mobile age, where privacy means nothing, the onus is on the user to protect his or her own privacy. That means, at the most basic level, you need to actually read these companies’ privacy policies, and if you don’t like them you need to have the courage to walk away. You can no longer afford to naively believe that these companies have your best interests in mind…they don’t.

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