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Privacy Businesses Your Rights Online

AT&T, Verizon To Require Opt-In For User Tracking 59

Posted by kdawson
from the about-thirteen-years-late dept.
ehaggis writes "The Washington Post reports that AT&T and Verizon have pledged not to track customers' internet behavior unless given explicit, opt-in permission. The two companies made this commitment in a Congressional hearing. A Verizon vice president is quoted: 'Verizon believes that before a company captures certain Internet-usage data... it should obtain meaningful, affirmative consent from consumers.' The article also mentions a survey quoted by a congressman indicating that '72 percent of Americans worry their online activities are being tracked by companies.'"
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AT&T, Verizon To Require Opt-In For User Tracking

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  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:31AM (#25164359)
    Maybe I'm paranoid, but how can user tracking ever be a good thing?
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:38AM (#25164415) Journal

      Well, nobody said it will be good for _you_. You're just supposed to believe that it'll be good for the economy -- in the same way, say, telemarketing calls or companies selling your private data are -- and saves the company some money, and _of_ _course_ they'll pass the savings on to you, the consumer.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Well, nobody said it will be good for _you_. You're just supposed to believe that it'll be good for the economy -- in the same way, say, telemarketing calls or companies selling your private data are -- and saves the company some money, and _of_ _course_ they'll pass the savings on to you, the consumer.

        Psssst. Hey, buddy. I've got 10 copies of Duke Nuke 'Em Forever. Wanna buy any?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by davester666 (731373)

        It will be good for the economy. In particular, the 'economy' of the ISPs. You either opt-in, so the ISP makes money showing you targeted ads, or you don't, and will need to pay the ISP an extra $5/month.

        Sure, it's not like this now, but it will eventually be like this (similar to having to pay a fee to the manufacturer to "remove" the crapware from your new computer)...

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:40AM (#25164423) Journal

      User tracking can't be good. The information gleaned from 15 million users can be. Imagine if you could see every search for political terms from anywhere. Those Google trends charts start to be more meaningful than they already are. Perhaps a researcher might want to know what level of exposure there is to cellular radiation among pre-teens? There are thousands of statistics that might probably be useful if everyone allowed tracking. Nobody wants big brother following them around town, or listening to their conversations. The dangers are imminent, and the idea that a health care provider might in the future refuse treatment of a skin tumor on your cheek because of recorded cellular usage is frighteningly real.

      The desire of big brother to want to be able to track anyone anytime is also a great danger. The bad guys will always thwart such efforts and only the innocent will be harmed.

    • by owndao (1025990)
      Don't worry. I'm sure we can trust them to guard this information with their lives. After all, they fought so hard against illegal wiretapping and then insisted that they should pay the full penalty of law for any breaches in that regard... Oops! I reserve the right to revise and consent to the inclusion of the above comment, that may or may not have been written by me depending upon whether I can remember it or not, in the record. I relinquish my remaining minutes to the next special interest group in line
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:36AM (#25164387) Journal

    If I'm to go by what other companies think it's a clearly affirmative accepting a contract, it'll probably go like this: somewhere in the fine print of their contract, or maybe in an EULA on their router/modem config page, will be something like "I agree to be tracked, and the company can do whatever it wishes with my data." And if you don't agree, then you can't use their service. Bonus points if:

    A) you only find that out after you bougt the service and,

    B) they're the only choice you have.

    Hey, it worked for software EULAs, didn't it?

    • by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:42AM (#25164429)

      Or maybe, just maybe, these companies are fed up with 3 letter agencies poking their noses around and this is a way to 'stick it to the man'

      Perhaps they will be able to hold up their hands and say "We got nothing, sorry"

      Nobody does 'opt-in' these days, very probably there is a little more to this story.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rpillala (583965)

        This is certainly not the case. The three letter agencies are increasingly staffed with contractors from private firms. The idea of selling intelligence collection to the private sector has been gaining ground since GHW Bush years, and really took off after 9/11. At that time, the government found that they had laid off all the analysts who could do the kind of cold war work they needed, and had to rehire them at several times their old rate. Estimates put the number of contractors at CIA (for example)

        • No need for me to read about spying good sir, I am a disgruntled former defence signals directorate drone, willing to exchange secrets for carbonated diet beverage or preferably beer. :-)

      • +1 Interesting, +1 Funny, I'm torn....
    • by pha7boy (1242512) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:48AM (#25164487)
      that would not really be "opt in" it would be more like "force in" - I assume it will be one of those mildly worded pop-ups that most people will hit yes/no on without actually reading it. Those paying attention will be able to keep themselves out of it, but then again, it's not the "geek" the marketers are after - it's the housewife/grandma/teen that is the big prize.
      • by elysiana (1152995)

        This is hardly a "force-in". It's the consumer's responsibility to read the terms of their contract. There have been several times where I have decided not to invest in a service because I found some fine print that I didn't like. Just because it's hard to find and often overlooked doesn't mean they're forcing you to agree to use their service and any terms it entails.

        As an aside, I think that there should also be an option to opt OUT at any time.

      • Proper terminology (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867)

        I think it would be "trick-in."

  • Let me guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shajenko42 (627901) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:36AM (#25164389)
    The "opt-in" will be part of the agreement to get service in the first place, thereby adhering to the letter of this promise, but not the spirit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      The "opt-in" will be part of the agreement to get service in the first place, thereby adhering to the letter of this promise, but not the spirit.

      Or, the ever popular "by continuing to use this service you agree to all terms and conditions" when they change their TOS to existing customers.

      I simply have a hard time that these companies will keep this one little line item separate, and make sure that when you click on it you are only clicking on it.

      The propensity to bundle all of the things into one big uber l

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:36AM (#25164391)
    Will they really lay it all out for the customer: "We want to spy on you. Is that cool?" Or will they try and hide it in section 10.123.31 of the TOS: "By breathing, you hereby give ATT perpetual, non-revocable permission to spy on you."
  • BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon&gamerslastwill,com> on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:37AM (#25164405) Homepage Journal

    AT&T cannot ever be trusted.

    • AT&T cannot ever be trusted.

      Sorry, but the validity of your knee-jerk reaction is relevant only to the government's spying efforts. Which are not the subject of the article.

      I have ATT DSL service. I have few objections to my service agreement. More importantly, I use my service to an extent not possible by those seduced by the promises of cable companies, whom I consider for the most part to be bottom of the barrel feeders. That's a roundabout way of saying that yes, the government may be spying on

      • by DragonTHC (208439)

        Actually I wasn't referring to the government spying. I was referring to AT&T making a fraudulent claim against me because one of their clerks screwed up when I returned a cable modem 9 years ago. They tried to charge me ridiculous fees saying I never returned my cable modem. I produced a receipt and they still didn't remove the claim.

        That's a large part of why I don't trust AT&T.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          AT&T and cable modem? Am I the only one confused here?

          • by idontgno (624372)
            Yes, you are. [wikipedia.org]
            • by blargster (239820)

              No, he's not. By the same Wikipedia article you linked to, the AT&T Broadband company was sold to Comcast in 2002 and is not in any way the same AT&T that exists today.

              • by idontgno (624372)

                Yup, not the same AT&T that exists today. Which is good, because we're not talking about the AT&T of today:

                Quoting from great-grandfather post, the original subject of this discussion:

                Actually I wasn't referring to the government spying. I was referring to AT&T making a fraudulent claim against me because one of their clerks screwed up when I returned a cable modem 9 years ago. They tried to charge me ridiculous fees saying I never returned my cable modem. I produced a receipt and they still did

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday September 26, 2008 @07:47AM (#25164483)
    So, tell me Mr. Anderson, why didn't YOU opt-in?

    I mean, if you aren't doing anything wrong, you might as well, right?

    My colleagues believe that I am wasting my time with you, but I believe you wish to do the right thing. We're willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start.
    • We're willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start.

      Does this mean they'll forget about my torrents?

      • by digitaldc (879047) *
        >Does this mean they'll forget about my torrents?

        No, we need to leave those open for easy Sentinel access
  • by Prototerm (762512) on Friday September 26, 2008 @08:11AM (#25164707)

    Clickjacking is about the only way they'd be able to get anyone to give their "informed" consent.

  • OK, if I was getting my internet service through Google instead of AT&T I'd be more worried about Google, as opposed to AT&T, tracking my online activity.

    Not hat I'm exactly happy about Google's history, but damn, when an ISP can see every page you visit no matter who's hosting it they should be expected to hold to a higher standard of behavior.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      Not hat I'm exactly happy about Google's history, but damn, when an ISP can see every page you visit no matter who's hosting it they should be expected to hold to a higher standard of behavior.

      Yes. As much as people argue that an ISP isn't a common carrier, they essentially fill the role.

      They can't have it both ways. Either they're just a medium and what you transmit is none of their business, allowing them to retain zero liability for what you send. Or, they're not a common carrier, and they can read it

  • is whatever it is, that AT&T is lying about it.

    I used to work for those guys, and "not telling the customer what is going on" was the first hour of training. (As in, how to do it effectively without sounding like you are doing it.)

    After the mystery rooms are gone, they may have a shred of credibility. But now? Uhm, no.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Friday September 26, 2008 @08:31AM (#25164919)

    voluntarily, is because they are trying to head off government regulation of private data.

    But people are right, it will probably be buried inside the TOS, which makes for an interesting dilemma, since requiring explicit permission to use the data would allow you to say yes or no without affecting your service, but if you say no to the TOS because the clause is in there, you can be denied service....

  • by sBox (512691)
    If they offered a break on our monthly bills for anonymous usage statistics, I bet 72% of Americans would take it.
  • Uh huhh, riiiight. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by handmedowns (628517)
    Why is this even relevant since we already know they assisted with warrantless wiretapping? Are they trying to prove they have a conscience or prove that they've got ethics and respect our privacy so long as no one else asks them to violate it? What a joke. I will never support AT&T or Verizon in any way that I'll be aware of.
  • How do you check if your on the Opt-in list? When signing up for any service provider, you have to check of an dagree to these LONG agreements. What if one of the questiosn forces you to opt-in? So back to my orginal question, how do we check if we are already on the opt-in list?
  • This isn't a suddenoutbreakofcommonsense, at least in the way the tagger meant it. They just want to avoid legislation which would require opt-in before they could do any user tracking, with criminal penalties for failure to comply.

    Trusting them to uphold this pledge in any meaningful way is like trusting the deregulated banks not to invest in overly risky derivatives. That should never have been left to their discretion; neither should this.

  • Telecos and Cable companies love the negative option approach (you're in unless you tell us you're not) and bury it in fine print. It will be interesting to see how they word future agreements and how they bury the provisos.
  • What he said is essentially meaningless since he didn't say "Internet-usage data" or "all Internet-usage data". The word 'certain' could be anything and nothing. I'm not convinced.
  • Something about the '72 percent of Americans worry their online activities are being tracked by companies.' thing just pisses me right off. It's like saying it doesn't matter if people aren't aware they are being screwed over, so let's take a survey to see if we really need to address it or not. Maybe we can learn how to keep secrets better and fuck over the public a little more. These surveys are great!

    Really though, I don't give a shit who is worried about it or not. If the bastards are doing it, then add

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday September 26, 2008 @12:15PM (#25168233)

    Please accept this check for $8.99 as a show of gratitude for being a customer.

    Please note depositing the check indicates you want to enroll in our free customer satisfaction service. The CSS includes free online billing information and free online customer tracking services. You'll also be able to get offers for special discounts to concerts and shows!

  • that it has to do with the big 2 trying to keep the government from regulating them on tracking users' browsing habits. The article indicated that this was about saying "hey we don't want regulation from you we can regulate ourselves see". Which we all still know is a crock since we as the consumer have no actual oversight on how this all actually works behind the scenes.

    The article had nothing to do with the government wire tappings, etc. Although I would yield to the fact that they didn't explicitly

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