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Verizon Draws Fire For Monitoring App Usage, Browsing Habits 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-selling-my-info-bro dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'We're able to view just everything that they do,' Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, told an industry conference earlier this year. 'And that's really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.' From the article: 'The company this month began offering reports to marketers showing what Verizon subscribers are doing on their phones and other mobile devices, including what iOS and Android apps are in use in which locations. Verizon says it may link the data to third-party databases with information about customers' gender, age, and even details such as "sports enthusiast, frequent diner or pet owner."'"
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Verizon Draws Fire For Monitoring App Usage, Browsing Habits

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  • Bubble ads (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quakeulf (2650167) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:07AM (#41691179)
    Even more opportunity for me to get offers for things I REALLY DON'T NEED.
    • by Mitreya (579078)

      Even more opportunity for me to get offers for things I REALLY DON'T NEED.

      It's not very anonymous if they can push targeted ads.
      I thought the only thing that's keeping this initiative legal is the fact that data is aggregated?

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        The best part is the premium price you pay to Verizon on top of being sucked for information by them.
        Good thing there are no rules regarding this, it might stagnate job creation... for my freedom.
      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        The whole point is that the advertiser pays Verizon, tells them what segments they want to target, and then Verizon mass pushes the ad to that segment. No specific data is transferred to the advertiser, but everybody's happy (except you the end user, but who gives a shit about you, right?)

    • Spekking of bubble... Perhaps the man is right, and data is the new oil, in the sense that we are (hopefully) fast approaching "peak data", or the point where Joe Public finally has had enough of his privacy being taken in every orifice for the sole purpose of pushing more of the same useless ads at us, to make us buy the same useless crap we don't want. I can only hope the backlash turns at least a little bit violent in places.
      • Spekking of bubble... Perhaps the man is right, and data is the new oil [...]

        If they want to mine my ass for data I'll expect to be reimbursed with a percentage of the take -- I know the difference between my ass and a hole in the ground... It's time we put an end to all this "I drink your Milkshake!" crap.

    • So there basically doing the same thing Google does except they are doing it threw there network rather then threw the OS.
  • by concealment (2447304) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:08AM (#41691183) Homepage Journal

    Verizon's the first, but watch Google and others to follow now that it's mainstreamed. We're all going to get put into consumer categories based on our online activities:

    sports fan, shoe fetish, gear head, porn enthusiast

    These will match up to categories of products which we will then see repeatedly everywhere we go until we get so paranoid we buy them just to feel normal.

    It's like minority report, but as a for-profit business instead of a pre-crime intervention.

    • by GIL_Dude (850471) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:27AM (#41691301) Homepage
      Actually I think it is worse than that. We all have things we like to do. Many people have things that they like to do that they really don't want others to know about. It might be that shoe fetish you mentioned. It could be gambling. As soon as people realize that they are being tracked on these activities and lists are being sold saying that they engage in them, they may modify their behavior. And while this may seem a net good for gambling or jailbait or something - it may eventually extend to things like "votes libertarian" or "is an atheist" or even "hindu, but frequents burger king" or whatever. I really don't want to see us get so far as to have people consciously having to modify their normal (legal) behaviors simply because they are being reported, tracked, and shipped to anyone with some money. You never know when that information will get out and you don't know who will see it. Let's label it "do not want" and see if we can prevent this "behavior modification through tracking everything" dystopia from becoming a reality.
      • by concealment (2447304) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:52AM (#41691449) Homepage Journal

        We notice that you've been modifying your behavior in response to our tagging. To better serve you, we have tagged you paranoid in our consumer tracking database. This tag reflects your interests and desires as a consumer.

        Coincidentally, we are offering you discounts this week:

        * 25% off "Ron Paul: The Retaliation" tshirts
        * $10 off paramilitary gear if you spend $25
        * Free shipping on gas masks from Amazon.com
        * Buy 1984 and Brave New World together and save $5 at Abe Books
        * Click here to consult with an offshore banking expert

        We think you may also qualify for these related tags: prepper, gun owner, cave or basement habitation expert.

        If you have any questions, please call our automated line for a recorded answer.

      • by TheSpoom (715771) <[ten.00mrebu] [ta] [todhsals]> on Thursday October 18, 2012 @09:24AM (#41691725) Homepage Journal

        I'm betting this turns into a blackmail database available to the highest bidding politician soon enough.

        • by Burz (138833)

          More than that, its like a marriage between traditional blackmail and much more subtle consumer advertising pressure, involving detailed psychological profiles that would make both the Stasi and Edward Bernays look like Boyscouts. They have the machinery and algorithms to sample and subtly nudge you hundreds of times each day, even to get your associates to help without realizing.

          You think getting TV-watching children to scream bloody murder to get a toy or a treat or a trip was bad... At least people could

    • Verizon's the first, but watch Google and others to follow now that it's mainstreamed.

      Introducing: Google Now!

      Interdasting, its almost like you can predict the past. [google.com]

    • by Scragglykat (1185337) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @10:11AM (#41692179)
      At least Google offers services for FREE. Verizon charges you $100/month to have your data farmed so you can get ads you don't want.
    • Verizon's the first, but watch Google and others to follow now that it's mainstreamed. We're all going to get put into consumer categories based on our online activities:

      sports fan, shoe fetish, gear head, porn enthusiast

      These will match up to categories of products which we will then see repeatedly everywhere we go until we get so paranoid we buy them just to feel normal.

      It's like minority report, but as a for-profit business instead of a pre-crime intervention.

      Maybe you should actually watch Minority Report.

    • by Nomuerto (2702799)
      I'm just glad I won't be the only one labeled under "porn enthusiast". Thank you Verizon for helping me find friends!
    • by citizenr (871508) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:05PM (#41694697) Homepage

      Verizon's the first, but watch Google

      Verizon is hardly first. Telefónica (fifth largest provider in the world) has been collecting this information since forever (and many more, they even log radio tower stats and correlate with traffic). There i

      Last time I posted this I got modded troll for pointing out naked emperor :)

      Users are not customers anymore. Today big data is the commodity.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzS83BGdWco [youtube.com]

  • Assholes (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:10AM (#41691195)

    Verizon Wireless says that its initiative, called Precision Market Insights, is legal because the information is aggregated and doesn't reveal customers' identities.

    The thought of "ethical" or "good for the customers" isn't in their vocabulary, is it?

    If they found the legal loophole that allowed literally ass-raping customers to make extra money, they'd use it the same day.

    • Re:Assholes (Score:5, Funny)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:13AM (#41691225)

      If they found the legal loophole that allowed literally ass-raping customers to make extra money, they'd use it the same day.

      Well bugger that for a laugh

    • The thought of "ethical" or "good for the customers" isn't in their vocabulary, is it?

      selling "goods to the customer", however, is.

    • Re:Assholes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @10:08AM (#41692147)

      The thought of "ethical" or "good for the customers" isn't in their vocabulary, is it?

      How quaint. You still think their cell phone users are customers. When it comes to data like this, advertising agencies are the customer. Cell phone users are a resource to be mined.

      We need to take the laws requiring opt-out forms for credit card and bank accounts, and expand it to cover all services which wish to sell customer data.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        What you say is true for the likes of Google, who offer free services. Verizon is potentially setting themselves up for problems because the data they're mining IS from their customers: most of their profits come from people paying their phone bills.

      • by Hillgiant (916436)

        I ain't gonna pay $100 per month with capped data just so these leeches can resell my usage habits to the highest bidder.

        Fuck those fucking fuckers.

    • by vawwyakr (1992390)
      Best and truest comment ever.
    • Interestingly, Tim Wu, in his most excellent book, Master Switch, explains how the original AT&T has recombined to its original corporate form (only bigger and more powerful with all the acquisitions when it was ostensibly "broken up"). The one supposed exception is Verizon, but following the circuitous ownership of Verizon through many, many subsequent points of ownership, one finds the majority owner turns out to be GE, which was owned by the original owners of AT&T (Rockefeller & Morgan) ---
    • by sjames (1099)

      Modded 'funny' because there's not a 'sad but true' mod.

  • by Bongo (13261) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:13AM (#41691229)

    Mr Reese, I have a new number for you. This one is about to go buy a KFC. You have 15 mins to get there before he does and make sure he buys McDonalds.

    OK Mr Finch, how do you suggest I persuade him? The M16 or the AK47?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I guess I'll start getting ads for porn sites.

  • ... whose president, a couple of years ago, surprised some people announcing coldly that he was there exclusively to 'provide receptive brain time to ads', and nothing else...
    A receptive brain provider, in his own french terms: 'fournisseur de cerveau disponible'.

    The TV indeed you can choose not to have; the GSM seems a bit harder.

    Maybe the solution is to separate functions: having a minimal-but-tetherable phone, and pair it with a small tablet that you (may?) control better, or at least whose data won't im

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      ... whose president, a couple of years ago, surprised some people announcing coldly that he was there exclusively to 'provide receptive brain time to ads', and nothing else...

      Nothing surprising about that. TV networks sell Ads, but they buy programs.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      That is ironic, but I can see it making sense. First it was device convergence, where the camera, USB flash drive, PDA, pager, cell phone, and MP3 player were rolled into one. Now we separate devices due to security issues. That way, the cell phone has no access to the documents on the camera, and the tablet has no access to what the text messages are.

      Maybe a saner model might be to use a trusted proxy server for all traffic, have a capable enough OS on the device so an app does not get access to photos

  • by TheEyes (1686556) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:30AM (#41691315)

    ...Verizon would be receiving an anti-trust conviction a few hours after admitting something like this.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...Verizon would be receiving an anti-trust conviction a few hours after admitting something like this.

      You use that word. I don't think it means [wikipedia.org] what you think it means.

    • by schwit1 (797399)

      There's no law against it and the courts are not supposed to make law.

      The problem is Congress and the FCC. This won't get resolved as long as elected officials may take campaign contributions from people they don't represent.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When Congress granted US telcos immunity in 2008 it set this up then. Now they think they can act with impunity and are above the law. And they know, if they happen to be breaking the law, nobody will go to jail, no penalties will be paid, they'll just sponsor a few Congresscritters and any snooping will be legalized.

    I also wonder if this is deep packet inspection only, because what Apps your using would only work if those apps were cloud services. However there is a piece of spyware that was installed on U

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      What are you talking about? the Telecom immunity only extends to government ordered activities concerning the TSP and FISA monitoring issued without warrants between a certain time period.

      Anything the telecoms do outside of those specific instances is fair game to go after them and they are not immune from anything. Perhaps what you think is against the law isn't actually so? Maybe there was another immunity law that I'm not aware of, it so please cite it.

    • Came here to say that this is probably Carrier IQ making this all possible. And people don't give a shit about privacy so they won't care.

  • by ArmageddonLord (607418) * on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:32AM (#41691333)
    Need more TOR! https://guardianproject.info/apps/orbot/ [guardianproject.info]
    • VPN to your home PC, Tor from there. Tor helps protect your anonymity by mixing in your browsing with background relay traffic; A bugger if you're on a low data cap tariff. Plus, all your phone provider sees is a VPN connection. Lots of travelling folk who tether their laptops etc use those; Not so conspicuous in the logs.
      • by Burz (138833)

        As a general rule, use VPN into your home or business for any/all Internet activity... even if you don't want to use anonymity tools like Tor.

        The parent is right that putting something like Tor on a mobile device doesn't make a lot of sense.

    • I don't know if I want my ISP knowing I use TOR. Despite what good it might be, something commonly associated with pedophiles and criminals is not something I want to be seen using, even less linked to my real name and data.

      • [...] something commonly associated with pedophiles and criminals is not something I want to be seen using [...]

        The less you use it day to day, the more legitimate this argument becomes... I'm with ArmageddonLord, the answer is more TOR not less.

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:34AM (#41691343)

    How do you know?

    Verizon has its own definition of 'unlimited' why would they not do the same for 'opt-out'?

    • Good question. I logged into my Verizon account and went to the privacy page [verizonwireless.com]. It offered a link to the privacy policy and a link to a page for Location-Based Services (LBS) Privacy Settings. I visited the settings page first, and it said there was nothing to set. What I skimmed said something about Verizon Navigator, which I don't use because it is a paid service, and Google Maps is so good. (Does this mean they take your money and spy on you at the same time? I know Google spies on me, but it doesn't cost

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:35AM (#41691353)
    Considering that you can't easily tor-browse out of a mobile device, there's no way at all to maintain any sort of privacy when you use a 3g-cell device to access the internet. Your service provider has always had access to everything you browse, everything you ping, everything you email, every TCP/IP port you may have open and every bit-and-byte of all traffic passing through those port channels. Wasn't there supposed to be some modicum of privacy?

    .

    Wasn't there supposed to be some modicum of privacy afforded to the end-users by the networks if all they did was run a comm-channel? I guess the retro-active pardoning of the telco-spying on all customers turned the notion of privacy inside-out. So along with goggle's staring at you at all of your port-80 traffic with doubleclicks and javascript and others using flash-based cookies, you've got to worry about eaves-dropping of all of your activity over you communications channels.

    .

    I'm sure that "our" express consent is buried somewhere in the fine-print of the ever-changeable-when-they-want-to user agreements. That concept of one-sided ability of the service provided to change the terms of the usage-agreement at any time and without notice has to be the most odious of the gotchas that exist in this world. I'm not face-booking because they change their privacy policy as often as possible and always reset the privacy settings to show-the-world-everything-including-your-undies every time they update anything like timeline.

    .

    Can the Public Utilities Commission do anything about this? or are cell-phone/wireless plans beyond the scope of the PUCs?

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @09:35AM (#41691837)
      VPN to your home PC, access Tor through that. Orbot is also an alternative, but you lose some anonymity / plausible deniability ("No, that was relay traffic. I wasn't using Tor at the time that really bad thing happened") by not running as a relay (which would be expensive on a limited data plan).
    • by phorm (591458)

      I used to be able to VPN to home on my old carrier.
      More recently I attempted, and neither PPTP and L2TP worked. I'm still investigating for other causes, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it's blocked.

  • by jonpublic (676412) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:39AM (#41691369)

    What level of access do they have? I need details explaining more. Can they see what you are doing when you are on a cellular network, or when you are on wifi too.

    Can they see what you are doing when you are using private browsing? Are they capturing passwords and storing them? Is the device pushing back secure information to them?

    Does a VPN prevent tracking?

    I expect some things when using a cellphone. Having them essentially listen in on all my communication or interaction with others is not one of them.

    • by Wansu (846)

        Can they see what you are doing when you are using private browsing? Are they capturing passwords and storing them? Is the device pushing back secure information to them?

      Yeah, like online banking. What could possibly go wrong?

    • What level of access do they have? I need details explaining more.

      Ah, how quick the fools are to simply forget about Carrier IQ. [wikipedia.org]

  • Evil. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattr (78516) <mattrNO@SPAMtelebody.com> on Thursday October 18, 2012 @09:03AM (#41691523) Homepage Journal

    There's crossing the line, and then there's blowing past it in a rocket car while going for the world land speed record.
    Did you every think when you were younger, if you remember before the Internet, that your phone company would listen in on your conversations, analyze them word for word, tally them up and present them to advertisers in neat little charts?
    The government does that? Heck I'm not doing anything wrong.
    The utility does it for profit? Mmmm.. no.
    The hulking sasquatch in the corner is that you can in fact find out things about people, or even more easily, about tiny groups of interest, even if you have stripped the caller data. And what if one of your marketing customers has written some finely targeted apps, for which they buy the report? It may be quite easy to integrate the additional data with what they have already got.

  • ...good thing I no longer use their image.
    I'm sure they're still monitoring my data, but I doubt cyanogenmod sends them info on my app usage.
    I just wish the CM team would make an INC 2 image past 7. Despite the fact their news posts claim they support it, I've yet to see one.
    I've tried the unofficial builds but they haven't played well with my phone, the last one i tried sent my battery into overdrive.
  • Uh? can't you even vote with your wallet ? drop Verizon and get a new contract with some other carrier ?
    • Uh? can't you even vote with your wallet ? drop Verizon and get a new contract with some other carrier ?

      Morton's Fork [wikipedia.org]

      Doesn't matter which carrier you have a contract with, they all engage in this sort of deep monitoring. Verizon is just being particularly blatant about it.. today. Tomorrow, it will be AT&T, or T-Mobile, or [Insert Carrier Here].

  • My contract with AT&T ends in December. Now I can scratch Verizon off the list. Now which company DOESN'T do this?

    • by Nyder (754090)

      My contract with AT&T ends in December. Now I can scratch Verizon off the list. Now which company DOESN'T do this?

      The all do it, they all have the means and the access to your data, Verizon was just stupid enough to admit it in public.

  • The solution is to only use encrypted services. If your fav site or does not encrypt ask the provider to add that option.

  • Rather than ignoring the postcards that guarantee me a whopping $10 in the settlement, I might actually file my own claim just to be a jerk. I'm big on privacy and if this is true, I wouldn't be unhappy to see them run into the ground for this.

  • ... Department of Justice prosecutor specializing in Federal wiretapping law enforcement.

  • "'We're able to view just everything that they do,' Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, told an industry conference earlier this year.

    All I have to say is that guy better have a huge jock strap. The size of his balls must be staggering to make a comment like that.

  • A Couple of Points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @11:52AM (#41693633) Homepage Journal
    1) A lot of corporations use Verizon as the carrier for their company-owned cell phones; depending on who uses what apps and phones, this data mining could easily be construed as corporate espionage, as well as national security risk. Example: Defense contracting company who uses AutoCAD Mobile app to share top-secret designs among their engineers.

    2) Albeit spoken by a true, obvious d-bag, the statement "data is the new oil" is a damn fine analogy IMO. Why, you may ask? Because no one gets to mine oil off my property without paying me for usage rights, and my data should be under the same consideration. Not only should mining my data for for-profit purposes require my explicit permission, it should also require fair compensation (fair to me, not Verizon).

    Someone who's a better writer than me needs to draft up a letter to Congresscritters that we can all copy/paste to indicate our chagrin.
  • I'd love to have a smartphone, but on the other hand, I value not being sold to advertisers like a slab of meat even more.
  • Seems to me the only thing that makes this data valuable is the fact that the buyers assume it is pure - meaning, that they think that your browsing habits actually reflect your interests and purchasing habits. I know I've seen talk of this before but why not simply have an app that randomly runs arbitrary apps and browses arbitrary pages in order to contaminate the data? If all of Verizon's users browsing habits looked similar from using such an app and it was well known that the data was not actually rep
  • Pay attention to this site:
    http://www.privacysos.org/blog [privacysos.org] thank you

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