Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Verizon Your Rights Online

Verizon Wireless Changes Privacy Policy 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the changing-the-rules dept.
First time accepted submitter flash2011 writes "Recently Verizon changed its home internet TOS to by default share your location with advertisers. Now Verizon Wireless has also changed its privacy policy to by default share your web browsing history, cell phone location and app usage as well. Whilst there have been a few stories on these changes, internet forums have largely been quiet. Where is the outrage? Or have we just come to accept that ISPs are going to sell our personal information and web browsing habits?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Verizon Wireless Changes Privacy Policy

Comments Filter:
  • Use a firewall (Score:2, Informative)

    by ZP-Blight (827688)

    That's what I do on my android phone.
    I have DroidWall installed and I simply block unwanted "services" from internet access.
    There's other alternatives on android, such-as "freezing" services.

    • Re:Use a firewall (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 16, 2011 @09:56PM (#37735042)

      Is a firewall particularly useful in this instance. All of the information that they are providing to third parties comes between your phone and Verizon's first gateway. They don't need to install an app. They can just watch the information as it flows through their pipes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gimmebeer (1648629)
      A firewall won't prevent your ISP from telling advertisers that you like to google Nike shoes and them then targeting you with advertisements... that is information upstream of your local connection. At best, you could use it to try to block ads from certains domains from loading. SSL or a VPN is a better alternative, but it's not always available. At the end of the day, it's just your ISP selling you to advertisers to make even more money at your expense. The outrage is present, there are simply fewer real
      • Re:Use a firewall (Score:4, Informative)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:06PM (#37735114)

        A firewall won't prevent your ISP from telling advertisers that you like to google Nike shoes and them then targeting you with advertisements...

        Well, an outgoing firewall can help prevent malware (which ISPs love to install on your equipment) from getting out. But there's an easier way, if you're concerned about your browser habits being tracked by your ISP. For example, you like to use Google for your search, just type this into your Location bar:

        https://www.google.com

        End-to-end encryption keeps them from knowing squat about your browsing habits other than the fact that you prefer Google. Of course, Google knows all.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            While https everywhere will prevent them from knowing you Google Nikes, it won't prevent them from knowing you hit Google.com, and then hit Nike.com. That information is still quite valuable.

        • by melted (227442)

          >> just type this into your Location bar: https://www.google.com/ [google.com]

          Bad advice. This will just forward to http://www.google.com/ [google.com]

          To get encrypted search using POST requests (where unencrypted URLs can't be tracked), use

          https://encrypted.google.com/ [google.com]

    • Re:Use a firewall (Score:4, Informative)

      by niftydude (1745144) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:04PM (#37735104)
      That doesn't work - they are basically using their routers to snoop on the traffic as you browse. The only way to prevent that is to use a vpn to some proxy somewhere, but then whoever supplies internet to that proxy can snoop on that traffic...
      • While, for the reasons you give, a firewall is useless against your ISP, it does have some virtues:

        With the 'apps' that all the kids are going on about these days, it is pretty likely that several parties are attempting to 'monetize' everything they can. Your cell carrier has massive built-in advantages(your packets flow through them, they can trivially triangulate your handset per E991 requirements); but this also makes it likely that their dataset will be a premium product(The Feds, and reasonably deep
    • Your firewall doesn't prevent your provider from knowing which tower is closest to you.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      Or. "web browsing history, cell phone location and app usage" - another reason to avoid a data plan. Oh, wait...

      My next phone is going to be the "dumb" one. I miss old times when accessories were not "smart" enough to spy on you, betray you and annoy you with hundreds of features you do not need.

      Yes, I am old.

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @09:53PM (#37735026) Homepage

    I'm already reading about how more and more companies are exposing our privacy in order to make an extra buck. But what I want to know is this. How does the top executive staff feel about them and their own family members having to eat their own dog food. Or...do they???

    • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:03PM (#37735100)

      The top executive staff, for the most part, is not us. They do not think like us, because if they did they would be unlikely to make it to a corporate executive or board of directors position. They do not act like us. Some of them may be very good people, and all of them are likely both driven and very fortunate, but it is a mistake to think that they think like us, or that their fears are the same as ours. Some of them are the same--but only some.

      The personality type of a driven businessperson tends to be different than that of a driven (or non-driven) engineer.

      Not always. But based on anecdotal evidence, I believe it to be true.

      • Given that people in power tend to have more psychopathic traits than the average person, your point is well taken.

        • by jimpop (27817) *

          People in power also tend to get more exceptions than the rest of us. I would bet $100 that, if the CEO of VZ has an Android phone, the Facebook app on his/her phone doesn't have a VZ forced-installed, bloatware, always-running Android Service called FacebookUploader.

          • I would take that bet. I'm sure the Verizon CEO is completely oblivious to what his phone does or does not have and therefore would never in a million years think to ask for it to be removed.

            • by jimpop (27817) *

              True... but the people who work for him/her what them to be the last one to experience any outage/vulnerability/issue, and therefore that person/group/etc often gets what most others don't. 1% vs 99%

            • you don't need to remove something that was never on the phone in the first place.

              Spying on YOUR NTH BOSS is a very severe Career Limiting Move and Annoying "Him" is just as bad

          • The CEO of VZ probably just told his subordinates to "track our customers" and assumed they'd know not to track HIM. That $100 better not come as a hash!
          • by rwv (1636355)

            Is the CEO of Verizon (or any other company) even on Facebook? Assuming he or she is -- what are the chances that they even maintain their own profile instead of hiring out maintenance to their support staff?

            What are the chances that the "for the lulz" people could get (embarrassing) location data and mobile browsing for a few CEOs and publish it?

        • by silanea (1241518)
          I remember reading about a study recently that identified psychopaths by their use of language and other traits. Would be interesting to run the software they used against data collected from top managers, politicians etc.
    • I suspect that many of them have a general level of inherent-displeasure-at-privacy-loss much closer to that of Joe Sixpack than to your Slashdot EFF member.

      More specifically, though, I think that it is very important to note that, in a great many cases, it isn't the dogfood itself that freaks people out; but the plausible and likely sequelae of the dogfood. A lot of these sequelae are economic, which means that their severity just evaporates as you move up the food chain.

      Consider: every time some arti
    • by siddesu (698447) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:17AM (#37735676)

      You surely remember the brouhaha that ensued a few years ago when one of those semi-serious online news outfits -- El Reg or The Inq I think -- assembled assembed and published a profile about one of the Google founders that included things like home address, money he made last year, etc. The guy was absolutely pissed and bitched about it for a long time, cut the outfit's access to press events and what not. I also recall Mark Suckerberg also having a fit about his private photos or whatever that someone leaked off his page -- that was maybe a year or so ago.

      So it seems that managers are reacting pretty much like everyone else -- when something is making them money, they think it is good, and when the same thing affects them badly, they do the mental reconciliation arithmetic and jump at the messenger instead of the problem.

      • by rwv (1636355)

        jump at the messenger instead of the problem

        I think being a CEO is a lot like being a crackhead or an alcoholic.
        The first step is always realizing that the problem is you.
        The other 11 steps are fixing the problem without relapsing every six months.

    • Verizon uses the same boilerplate contract for all its regular customers because it would take too much time (and therefore money) to negotiate and implement millions of individual contracts. But it's conceivable that a small handful of highly-paid executives could effectively set their own terms of service as a perquisite. Perhaps the more privacy-conscious among them have "opted out" of the more nefarious terms and conditions.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:00PM (#37735074) Homepage

    If you're locked into a Verizon contract, Verizon just gave you the option to cancel without paying a penalty. They've made a material change in the terms, and you now have the right to exit the contract. [consumerist.com]

    • by toQDuj (806112)

      Would not work, this change is not a material change.

  • I am not sure how it works in the US, but here in Canada when a celco changes its terms, it allows the end user to cancel his contract without an ECF. That is, unless the celco agrees to honour the terms of the original contract as signed for its duration. So assuming the 2 year contract also says something to the effect of user agrees with the privacy policy, I would argue that makes the privacy policy part of the contract and is thus grounds for cancelation. Thoughts?

    • Canada is socialist. In the US, corporations are allowed to make money any way they like, fairness or even legality be damned. It's in the constitution.

    • i think this is big enough to get a couple hundred lawyers "interested" on whether this would be considered a "material change" in the contract.

      its the "suckers" that are in the six to twenty-two month window that are going to get this in the teeth.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:06PM (#37735116)

    Is it just me, or are most of the technological innovations in the last decade mainly about monetizing consumer behavior tracking?

    Google has an entire ecosystem built up around you using their "free" services in exchange for mining your data to improve search results and advertising clickthroughs. Facebook takes it another step and explicitly states that all your personal data is for sale to advertisers. Amazon has all sorts of creepy analytics sorting through your purchase and shopping history, and now they will have full access to Kindle Fire users' web browsing habits. If the late 90s through early 2000s was the dotcom bubble, the late 2000s through the early 2010s appears to be the customer marketing data bubble. Who knows what will come of this...

    What I don't get is why this data is so useful to advertisers. I've almost never bought anything based solely on an ad. Maybe other people are more easily manipulated, but generally I need to try something first or have a real (non-marketroid) person give me a recommendation before I give money away to someone. I'm one of those annoying skeptics in the IT department who take vendor-sponsored "whitepapers" on products with a grain of salt. I guess advertising works on some subset of the population....otherwise businesses wouldn't waste money on it.

    We'll see what happens with the privacy thing as well. Either the Web 2.0 crowd is going to completely take over and there will be zero privacy in any aspect of one's life, or people might start realizing that Google and Facebook don't just put these cool services out there for free. I'm not a tinfoil hat guy, but I really don't want the kind of hyper-targeted advertising that knowing my location, presumably my credit score and browsing history would present. Problem is that for every one of me, there 10 million others who don't care or just click I Agree to the new terms because they want the cool service.

    • by syousef (465911) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:26PM (#37735238) Journal

      Is it just me, or are most of the technological innovations in the last decade mainly about monetizing consumer behavior tracking?

      It's not just you, but I think you're putting it too nicely. Monetize is the wrong word (and I hate it because it's an unnecessary made up marketing word to boot). The correct word is exploit. Companies have become very customer hostile, while continuing to play up marketing that tells you how fantastic they are and how wonderful your life will be if you use their services. So there's also issues of hypocrisy and false advertising. These issues have always existed of course, but the abuse has gotten way out of hand. When is the last time you heard of a company being punished for false or misleading advertising? The worst part? Some customers defend such bad behaviour if it's their favourite company or if they think they aren't personally affected.

      • by bennettp (1014215) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:37AM (#37735740) Homepage

        The correct word is exploit. Companies have become very customer hostile, while continuing to play up marketing that tells you how fantastic they are and how wonderful your life will be if you use their services.

        "Customer hostile" is not correct either. It implies that users are also customers, which we are not.

        So who are the customers? The customers are the advertisers who buy aggregate customer data, or advertising space. The customers are the people who actually pay for the service.

        The users are the product.

        • by forand (530402)

          We are talking about an cell phone company. You think Verizon makes more money from advertisers than they do from paying "users?" That seems like a rather strong assertion given that I haven't heard of many people being inundated with ads on the Verizon network which is what would be required to equal the cost per month a user pays.

          Sure if you are talking about the likes of Google, Hulu, or any other advertising driven business then I would agree with you but not in this case.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:50AM (#37735786)

        Monetize is the wrong word (and I hate it because it's an unnecessary made up marketing word to boot). The correct word is exploit. Companies have become very customer hostile, while continuing to play up marketing that tells you how fantastic they are and how wonderful your life will be if you use their services. So there's also issues of hypocrisy and false advertising.

        No, from an advertising standpoint, this is customer-friendly. Assuming you're going to be showered by ads anyway in today's media, do you want to be showered by ads 90% of which don't interest you? Or do you want ads which interest you 75% of the time? I buy a lot of computers for client businesses. I want to be informed when Dell or some other major manufacturer holds a sale. Being able to better target ads is customer-friendly - it's win/win. It's not hypocritical, nor is it false advertising (indeed, showering you with ads saying all these products will make your life better, when 90% of them don't even interest you is more false).

        Where this is customer-hostile is on the issue of privacy; nothing to do with the advertising. If I want to be informed of certain types of ads, I should have to give my consent to be tracked that way. Making it the default is making violating my privacy the default.

        • Google holds the record of being the only place I've ever clicked through an ad and bought something. If I'm looking for an item, and I search for it, I have a look at the ads. Why? Because in almost every case it is a company that wishes to sell me that product. Clicking on the ad takes me right to it in most cases. That's useful advertising.

          I'm not defending this particular thing, but the grandparent is right that there is good to customizing ads. Heck, anyone who has read a magazine like IEEE Spectrum kn

        • by Shoe Puppet (1557239) on Monday October 17, 2011 @02:47AM (#37736288)

          Assuming you're going to be showered by ads anyway in today's media, do you want to be showered by ads 90% of which don't interest you? Or do you want ads which interest you 75% of the time?

          I want ads that interest me 0% of the time. That way they can't influence me.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:40PM (#37735288) Journal
      Other problem(for you) is that, unless you go off the grid entirely, you tend to stick out like a sore thumb among the happy-clicking opt-in consumers...

      If you play with a tool like panopticlick [eff.org] you can observe that browsers are surprisingly identifiable by default and, worse, a lot of the tools used to make them less so are quite uncommonly used, which actually makes you stand further out of the crowd.

      It isn't clear whether there is money in tracking and attempting to sell to, the vehement refuseniks of the world; but only the sharpest and most dedicated would escape if there were...
    • by alostpacket (1972110) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:47PM (#37735330) Homepage

      The reason it's valuable to advertisers is that it improves what's called "conversion rates." On a typical ad buy of say 100,000 impressions, you might get 1-100 people actually buying the product after seeing the ad. That percentage is called the "conversion rate", and it's tracked thoroughly. There are also two types of ad campaigns: acquisition and awareness. When most people think about advertising, they think about acquisition -- the ads meant to get people to actually buy the product not long after seeing the ad.
       
        Awareness is harder to track, but it also benefits from targets ad buys (and is also tracked to the fullest extent that they can). If I want people to remember my sports store the next time they need new cleats or sports clothes, it helps if my ad is shown to people who like football.

      Whether this is good or bad is up to you, but I'm just trying to explain the motivations behind targeting.

    • You are not immune (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe other people are more easily manipulated, but generally I need to try something first or have a real (non-marketroid) person give me a recommendation before I give money away to someone.

      I think it is incredibly naive to believe that you are immune to advertising. Most people think they are immune to advertisements but research shows that advertising affects how all of us make decisions.

      When you go to the store to buy peanut butter do you care if you pick up Jiff or Peter Pan? I can assure you th

    • What I don't get is why this data is so useful to advertisers. I've almost never bought anything based solely on an ad.

      Everybody says that, and yet companies spend untold $billions on marketing and marketing-effectiveness research. Which means either (A) this pervasive marketing is a huge waste-o-cash, or (B) we ("consumers" as a whole) are mostly unaware of the heavy influence that marketing has on us.

      Knowing how much those companies would love to keep the dollars headed toward executives instead of b

    • by ChilyWily (162187)

      True - I hope I don't sound too paranoid, but I have often wondered if there are other forces in play who would be okay to have this collected for "marketing" purposes, until they need it for something else.

      Tracking of credit transactions, web sites visited, shopping histories etc., they all represent a treasure trove for someone wanting to surreptitiously look at a person without having to go through the (already watered down) legal burden of proof.

      My concern is that there is no parity here for the person

  • It's like this...

    You know it's gonna be some bubba in jail that gets yer tender ass,
    at least this is the nicest and cleanest smelling one.

    -AI

  • by zbobet2012 (1025836) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @10:23PM (#37735212)

    What precisely they are allowed to do is tightly regulated by the Cable and Telecommunications act, specifically the sections governing "Personally Identifiable Information". A brief summer of the act can be found here [fcc.gov]. Note the following section:

    Cable operators generally are prohibited from using their cable systems to collect personally identifiable information concerning any subscriber without the prior written or electronic consent of the subscriber. ... Notice to the subscriber must be in the form of a separate, written statement and must be clear and conspicuous. Notice must also be given at least once every year that the agreed upon service is provided. "Personally identifiable information" does not include any record of aggregate data which does not identify particular persons.

    Whether this constitues usage of PII is dubious at best. Indeed you may see other major telcos step in and sue seeing as incorrect usage of this data gives Verizon an unfair market advantage.

  • What do I install on my remote server to make my DD-WRT router send all my traffic encrypted to a remote proxy that resends it after it's past my local ISP? All traffic, all protocols, even re-encrypting SSL, ssh and other encrypted traffic.

    Protecting ourselves from this relentless snooping should be an apt-get away.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      DD-WRT uses ipkg :)

      http://ipkg.nslu2-linux.org/feeds/unslung/cross/ [nslu2-linux.org]

  • Apps like Viber [viber.com] will seriously eat into their bottom line. Will they try and disable it or charge for Viber texts?

    • by frinkster (149158)

      Apps like Viber [viber.com] will seriously eat into their bottom line. Will they try and disable it or charge for Viber texts?

      Even simpler is iOS 5. If you are sending a message to another person that has iOS 5, it is routed over a data connection through Apple's messaging servers and is free.

      Now of course you now have to trust Apple instead of your phone company. But... It's free and has no advertising.

  • Regulate away (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FyberOptic (813904) on Sunday October 16, 2011 @11:25PM (#37735496)

    This kind of stuff is ridiculous when you're already paying a lot of money for service. But lots of companies are taking advantage of digital consumers in lots of ways already. ISPs, like Charter for example, default to giving you a search page when DNS requests fail. This page is not only full of sponsored ads, but it breaks how the internet is supposed to work when a domain doesn't exist. Fortunately, Charter finally implemented a way to fully opt out (after a long time of a useless method), but the default is still the search page which most people will never change. And we all know the stories of ISPs replacing ads in pages with your own, or inserting new ads altogether, or creating profiles of sites you visit and selling it to advertisers. Who cares about the user when there's money to be made.

    We need privacy laws to stop it, because if you're counting on the free market/capitalism/blah blah to "work things out on its own" (as I've been told by people before when discussing privacy issues), then you're incredibly naive. Greed runs these companies' decisions, and when nearly every company is doing it, or there's no other company in your area to service you, then you're stuck. Time for more of those government regulations that people love to hate.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:59AM (#37735820)

    Where is the outrage?

    If you you read the fine print (you may need a microscope) you'll probably find that outrage is prohibited by the ToS.

  • Opt-out Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Orphaze (243436) on Monday October 17, 2011 @01:43AM (#37736000) Homepage

    I just received an e-mail about this a few days ago. Here is the link you can use to opt out of this:

    www.vzw.com/myprivacy

    Login with your account info, and you can then opt out all of the phone lines on your account. Be sure to get all three separate options on that page.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday October 17, 2011 @02:29AM (#37736214) Homepage Journal

    Pray they do not change it further.

  • I don't use Verizon. Plus this is the first I've heard of either change. I have something to tell my Verizon using friends now. They'll probably be livid since I doubt they know either.
  • Simple, the average customer does not read the ToS, nor do they care when they change. This will only change once ToS documents are reduced to 1 page max using 10pt Arial and not full of legalese that the average person doesn't understand.
    • Simple, the average customer does not read the ToS, nor do they care when they change. This will only change once ToS documents are reduced to 1 page max using 10pt Arial and not full of legalese that the average person doesn't understand.

      Maybe there should be a law that terms of service are non-enforceable if they are too long.

  • by spaceman375 (780812) on Monday October 17, 2011 @10:34AM (#37739734)
    Time for the EFF to become a customer of these "services" from verizon, google, facebook, etc. Then they can start a daily report called "Browsing Habits of the 1% and Their Families." Throw in a few demographic reports on the top 10% broken down by zip code, or by political affiliation. Re-tweet the top words and phrases on twitter from the topmost identifiable household income levels. That might get a reaction.
  • Verizon claims they can use this for targeted mobile advertising. How would they deliver that advertising? The only ads I see on my phone are on web pages. Is Verizon going to modify web pages to deliver different targeted ads? Perhaps now I see why they didn't want network neutrality to apply to wireless networks...

    How information will be used:
    To make mobile ads you see more relevant.

    Description:
    When you use your wireless device, you often see ads on websites and apps. Using certain Consumer Information
    (such as your Demographics, device type, and language preference) and the postal address we have for you, we will determine whether you fit within an audience an advertiser is trying to reach. This means ads you see may be more relevant to you. We will not share any information that identifies you personally. A local restaurant may want to advertise only to people who live within 10 miles, and we might help deliver that ad on a website without sharing information that identifies you personally.

    (emphasis mine)

  • IMHO Verizon did a good job with this change. They sent me an email a couple of weeks ago letting me know about the changes. The email was very concise and clear. They listed exactly what they wanted the information for and what they were going to do with it. They even gave examples. For example, they made it clear that they were going to use location information to provide context specific advertisements.

    Most importantly, the steps for opting out were very explicit and easy to follow. They went so fa

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

Working...