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Verizon faces scrutiny for automatically tracking subscriber information

Even if a subscriber opted out before, they have to do it again

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Photo (c) jetcityimage - Getty Images
Verizon is once again facing scrutiny over privacy issues. After the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined the company $48 million for selling customers’ location information without their consent, the company is receiving backlash over gathering data without some customers’ permission. 

Engadget reports that Verizon changed some of its subscribers’ privacy settings when it made changes to its Selects program and relaunched it as “Verizon Custom Experience Plus.” Those modifications allowed the company to gather a user’s geographical location, web browsing history, and mobile application usage data so that it could send them marketing messages or offers.

Critics say the company crossed the line by re-enrolling customers into data tracking who had previously opted out. To make matters worse, users will have to opt out a second time if they want to continue not being tracked.

In posturing Custom Experience, Verizon says the program uses the information it collects to “personalize our communications with you, give you more relevant product and service recommendations, and develop plans, services, and offers that are more appealing to you.” 

In the program’s FAQs, the company says what it tracks is pretty much surface-level data like the first part of a web address (URL). It says it doesn’t track what a user looks at within a website.

“For example, we would be able to infer you are interested in ‘news’ if you visit a news-related website, but we wouldn't know what news article you read,” one of the FAQs claimed.

How Verizon users can regain control of their data

If you’re a Verizon subscriber who wants to regain a level of anonymity, the best way to opt out of Custom Experience Plus is to follow these steps: 

  • Go to the privacy preferences page on the My Verizon site or the privacy setting page within the My Verizon app.

  • Under “Manage Settings,” find the “reset” triggers for Custom Experience and Custom Experience Plus and opt out of the programs.

For users who opt out, Verizon says it will cease “using the web browsing, app usage and location information we used prior to your reset in the programs.” The company adds that users who are account owners or account managers, like on a family plan, may also block other lines on the account from participating in the programs.

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