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Verizon Wireless Opt-Out Plan For Customer Records 216

An anonymous reader writes to let us know that Verizon Wireless is planning to share its customers' calling records (called CPNI) with "our affiliates, agents and parent companies (including Vodafone) and their subsidiaries." The article explains that CPNI "includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls and time spent on each call, among other data." Some subscribers, it's not known if it's all of them, received a letter in the mail giving them 30 days to opt out of this sharing by calling 1-800-333-9956. Skydeck, a mobile and wireless services company, seems to have been the first to call attention to the Verizon initiative on their blog; they also posted a scan of the letter (sideways PDF) from Verizon.
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Verizon Wireless Opt-Out Plan For Customer Records

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  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @02:52PM (#20975165)
    When I hear things like that I always wonder how they handle past customer data. Those folks are not being given any "opt out" provision. Same as when companies get bought or sold off for parts. Current customers of course are respected since they have value but past customers are only worth the data you can mine out of them.
  • I got one of those (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scareduck ( 177470 )
    I got one of those letters several weeks ago, and immediately called the 800-333-9956 number listed to opt out.
    • Yep, I opted out as well. While opt-in as the default is a horrific policy, they at least did offer the opt out option very easily and obviously in the letter.
  • Pretty painless (Score:5, Informative)

    by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:01PM (#20975229) Homepage
    It's pretty painless to do. You need to have your account details, and you have to jump through a separate hoop for each number, but at least they retain your context from hoop to hoop. Saves you from having to enter your SSN every time.
    • Re:Pretty painless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rtconner ( 544309 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:02PM (#20975235) Homepage Journal
      It's just evil that they make you do it at all.
    • Re:Pretty painless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CosmeticLobotamy ( 155360 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:15PM (#20975321)
      Saves you from having to enter your SSN every time.

      I haven't called, but I'm gathering from you that they ask you to enter it once? They send a piece of mail (with their logo on it, so you know it's really them) to you asking you to call a number that could be anyone and ask you to enter your social security number? Thanks, Verizon, for making identity theft even easier.
      • Re:Pretty painless (Score:5, Informative)

        by reset_button ( 903303 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:34PM (#20975417)
        I just called. You need to enter your phone number, billing zip code, and the last 4 digits of your SS#.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          This is so much bullshit. This should be opt-in.

          Actually, it should just be illegal.
          • Why should it be illegal to voluntarily give a cell phone company your SSN? Is someone forcing you to use their service?
            • Yep, the FCC has auctioned off the public airwaves to them. So, if you want cell service, that is precisely what has going on.
          • To answer your question in general, your cell company needs your SSN so they can check your credit. Unless you use pre-paid service, they're essentially lending you money which you pay back monthly.

            In this case, they use the last four digits of your SSN as a password to authenticate you. Any time you call Verizon to change anything on your account, they ask you for those digits as authentication. It's a very weak authentication, sure, but it has the advantages that it's better than nothing, and it's a

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by pthor1231 ( 885423 )
              They aren't lending you money at all. Ever notice how your phone bill the first month you sign up is double-ish? Thats because they charge you the pro-rated amount for the remaining billing period, and then next months charge. In reality, you are giving them money for future airtime.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ErnieD ( 19277 )
          I just called also, and if you have a password set up on your account for billing purposes (i.e., you have to provide it when calling to make any changes to your service or billing), then they ask you for that instead of SSN.
      • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:42PM (#20975465)
        Actually, you have to give them the SSN that you made up back when you signed up for service originally.
    • Re:Pretty painless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Gwyn_232 ( 585793 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:26PM (#20975387)
      It doesn't matter how easy it is, that's not the point. In pretty much every western country, except for the US, this would be totally illegal. It amazes me how Americans seem (on the whole) totally content with not having any data protection laws.
      • its not that they are content its that there has never been a real need to until now. Like the do not call list, once people get harrased enough they fight back.

        the problem stems from our government, since they are the once we have elected to do this kind of thing for us, but they very well are getting paid by companies like verizon to make sure those companies can screw us harder and harder without being effected by laws.

      • I am from Europe and I don't like the way the governments here have chosen to protect our data. In the US the government doesn't care much (in theory - in practice it actively collects your data) and so you are responsible for protecting your own data, but here in Europe the government acts as a nanny to the point that it is very difficult even to keep an address book, and there are not good definitions explaining what personal data are. At least, that's how I see the situation. I think the best thing wo

    • Not as painless as the opt-in that we apparently all did... oh wait..

      Anything that is like this should always be opt in. No one would do it though, unless they gave you some kinda bonus for doing it. As long as they make more money for doing it then they lose from angering people about it, they'll do it.
  • I'm trying to understand this. Although it is painted as a marketing arrangement, does this provide them the immunity (going forward) that Congree would not grant retroactively?
    • I'm trying to understand this. Although it is painted as a marketing arrangement, does this provide them the immunity (going forward) that Congree would not grant retroactively?

      I doubt it. The information they are sharing (who you called, when, and for how long) is basically the same information the police can get from a pen register. The Supreme Court decided long ago that pen registers do not require a warrant.

      The immunity the telcos are seeking relates to allowing the NSA to evesdrop on calls. On

  • by cliveholloway ( 132299 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:05PM (#20975263) Homepage Journal
    I can't believe the shit companies can get away with over here. Call me paranoid, but I think my next cellphone will be another pay-as-you-go under someone else's name.

    Actually. Maybe that would be a good business idea. Buy a PAYG phone and swap SIMS with someone at random. Maybe make it so you mail them on every few months. For the truly paranoid...
  • by WwWonka ( 545303 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:07PM (#20975271)
    ...of corporate (a)merica truly getting out of hand.

    This scenario is much like a criminal going to commit a crime no matter what, but he won't if you get his letter in the mail and then take steps and waste your time to tell him not too. Just so many things wrong with this story, but unfortunately not shocking and of course NO ONE will do anything to stop this trend in the country other than bitch and moan.

  • I guess they want to follow the gmail model for advertising, etc.
    Unfortunately, while many people have several e-mail accounts, you cannot
    switch so easily between different phones. Moreover, gmail is nearly anonymous, while you
    cell phone is anything but.
  • Incoming phone numbers? Not sure what Verizon does with those, but I don't even get those numbers from Sprint on my bill.

    • Yes, Sprint never provided incoming call number info on its past bills, because its billing software was too stupid.

      But Sprint is right now in the process of converting ALL customers over to Nextel's billing software (ENSEMBLE) and that software *will* provide you with incoming number info.

      In the process of this conversion, it is also likely that many perks and discounts that you may have received from Sprint will be stripped off...

      Target for total conversion is early 2008, about 30-40% of the conversion is
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cli_rules! ( 915096 )
      Just called and talked to a very polite Verizon rep. Here's what was said:

      We have until November 11 to opt out. Only Verizon's parent company would get the data.

      The following details would be uploaded:
      • # of total calls
      • time and duration of individual calls but not the actual phone numbers involved - this was emphasized by the rep
      • quality metrics (whatever those might be; I'm assuming call drops and tower transfers at least)
      • # of voice minutes vs. data minutes
      • average revenue for my account
      • applica
    • by xaxa ( 988988 )
      They obviously have them, since they know both numbers when they connect the call.

      My bill (UK mobile phone) tells me every number I called (duration, cost, charging rate, whether it came in my included minutes. It's long, but it's a PDF so that's OK). It doesn't give incoming ones, but in the UK you are only charged for making calls, not receiving them. I expect the phone company keeps the record though.
      • UK and EU is a heaven when it comes to protecting consumer rights and privacy.
        Imagine Vodafone UK trying to do a Verizon stunt in Germany....
        Am sure the EU commissioner will wait for 30 days and then fine EUR300 million coolly.

  • by kybred ( 795293 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:16PM (#20975323)
    Opt-out for this kind of thing should be illegal. I should have to opt-in to allow this, but of course few people would so it might not be worth it to the companies. Which is why they use opt-out.
  • Because an OPT IN would be the right thing to do, but that would require morals wouldn't it.
    • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:40PM (#20975455)
      Corporations, like governments, are amoral by definition. Opt-in would require business ethic, of which Verizon has repeatedly shown it has little. To be fair, the same applies to AT&T/SBC, Comcast, AOL, and any of the other big boys.

      The people who consume the goods and services provided by the likes of Verizon have become less important than the companies willing to pay to mine customer databases. There's a lot of money in that, which means quality-of-service levels (and corresponding expenses) can be reduced while maintaining profitability. If that kind of information-sharing were simply illegal, perhaps our communications providers would have to get back to worrying themselves about what their customers want.
  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:18PM (#20975335)

    In order to better serve your communications needs and to identify, offer and provide products and services to meet your requirements, we need your permission to share this information among our affiliates, agents and parent companies (including Vodafone) and their subsidiaries... You have a right to keep your CPNI private by "opting out." Unless you provide us with notice that you wish to opt out within 30 days of receiving this letter, we will assume that you give Verison Companies the right to share your CPNI with the authorized companies as described above.

    I know this is common practice, but I'd still like to believe that this would be a non-binding contract. Especially since there's no mutual consideration. Here's an excerpt from the Michigan Law Review regarding Silence as Acceptance of an Offer:

    It is generally held that an offeree has a right to make no reply to offers, and that his silence and inaction cannot be construed as an assent to the offer. This is true even though the offer states that silence will be taken as consent, for the offeror cannot prescribe conditions of rejections so as to turn silence on the part of the offeree into acceptance.

    The Virginia Law Review continues to talk about when silence is binding:

    Where the offeror acts to his detriment in reasonable reliance on the offeree's conduct, the offeree's inaction, will be deemed an acceptance after he has remained silent for a reasonable length of time.

    The difference here, though is that Verizon isn't acting to its detriment, they're going to be getting a big fat cheque out of this from a 3rd party. So, once again, it goes back to mutual consideration.

    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      The difference between this and any random company making an 'offer' is that you have already agreed to this shit when you signed the contract with Verizon. I think you'll find that if you re-read that contract, it says it can do whatever it wants with the information they collect from you and that this is merely a 'nice' (I use that word quite loosely) thing they are doing for you.

      They aren't breaking that law because they already -have- your agreement. It's your disagreement they are asking for, and you
    • by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:58PM (#20975567)

      I know this is common practice, but I'd still like to believe that this would be a non-binding contract. Especially since there's no mutual consideration. Here's an excerpt from the Michigan Law Review regarding Silence as Acceptance of an Offer:
      Contract has nothing to do with it. Obviously, you can't send someone a letter and form a contract just because they didn't bother to respond. The reason they can get away with this is because they have Congress in the palm of their hands.

      It was just a few years ago that everyone was up in arms about companies sharing our personal information. Congress was pressured to create some regulations to stop it. Instead of going for an "Opt-in Rule" where companies would only be allowed to share or sell your information if you affirmatively acted in telling them it was ok, they passed an "Opt-out Rule."

      Under the current scheme, all a company has to do is tell you about it's information sharing policies and give you an opportunity to Opt-out. They don't need a contract. They don't need a meeting of the minds, consideration, offer and acceptance or anything but your silence. If you don't want your information shared, you'll need to get busy and start notifying every company you've ever done business with. You can thank Congress for this.
  • New Verizon Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by freelunch ( 258011 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:39PM (#20975447)
    In the preferred embodiment a method of fucking over customers is described whereby private customer data is disclosed to third parties for profit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:51PM (#20975523)
    It seems that Verizon is trying to sidestep the 12/2/07 deadline for new rules regarding CPNI. Earlier this year, the FCC decided to change the CPNI rules for carriers (both wireless and wireline) to try and beef-up the security around the call details that these carriers handle: []

    One thing that is clear from the FCC ruling is that "The FCC changed this requirement to mandate that customers obtain "opt-in" approval from their customers prior to sharing CPNI with their joint venture partners and independent contractors for marketing purposes only." Verizon shouldn't be able to have a global "opt-in" through silence, unless they're trying to get that recorded before the more stringent policy goes into effect in December.
  • I'm guessing that the NSA/FBI/CIA/[insert TLA here] will be considered an affiliate?

    • Sounds like absolutely nothing prevents some "affliate" from gathering up the CPNI and using it for all sorts of damaging stuff... like tracking how many elected officials call 1-800-HOT-GIRL, or married men who call single women's numbers often, and at nights and on weekends. The data mining-for-no-good possibilities are endless.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @04:12PM (#20975625)
    From the TFA: In order to better serve your communications needs and to identify, offer and provide products and services to meet your requirements, ...

    Meaning: In order to increase our revenue and profit margins ...

    ... we need your permission to share this information among our affiliates, agents and parent companies (including Vodafone) and their subsidiaries.

    ... unless you tell us otherwise, we will trash any semblance of privacy you thought you had and share your data with the entities we really care about, so we can all make even more money off you chumps.

    I guess it could be worse, they could be sharing your data with the NSA. Oh wait...damn.

  • The option for these kinds of schemes is always to "opt out" of the data sharing. Since I expect that the overwhelming majority of users would want to keep their calling records and data private, shouldn't the option be to "opt in" to the data sharing?
  • by jeeves99 ( 187755 ) * on Sunday October 14, 2007 @06:03PM (#20976329)
    I called the customer service number (*611) and talked to a rep for 20 minutes asking every conceivable question about this policy change. I put her on speakerphone and continued reading slashdot while we chatted. If a lot of people called them like this, their call center costs will rise. I don't see really any other way of letting them know my discontent.

    +1 mod for screwing the big guy. :)
  • by a1337Hax0r ( 1173755 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @06:49PM (#20976629)
    Let's see. I suffer from a terrible disease of one type or another (My daughter thinks Mesothelioma is cool. I think she watches too much TV). Anyhow, I call several specialists to schedule appointments for treatment and then I call a lawyer to put the smack down on those nasty Asbestos peeps. An infomercial low-life who sells Mesothelioma snake oil buys my phone records, scans it for all the doctor records (umm... duh... they are online) connects the dots and then starts calling my number which is also on the DNC registery. Last time I checked, there were Federal laws against sharing medical information without express written permission.
  • Verizon is not alone in this. The companies (and even some DMV's and banks) are collecing and selling out their customer's data with complete disregard to the risks involved from privacy to identity theft. I went to CompUSA a few weeks ago to buy a Nokia N800 wifi internet tablet. At the checkout register, when the lady scanned it, a window popped up on her screen. She said I had to give my phone number, name and address to buy it. I asked why and she called her manager who said I have to provide this infor
    • I've used another version of this for years. Apt or Ste numbers can be put in the first line next to the street address and name (if you have one). This frees up the second line.

      Great use for the second address line:

      Firstname Lastname
      127 Loopback Ave Apt C
      Company name SPAM DEPT.
      City, ST 65335

      You still get all the junk mail, but now you know who sold your info thanks to that SPAM DEPT line.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jroysdon ( 201893 )
      Second trick for stupid businesses wanting to do this sort of "tracking." I used to use this for Radio Shack all the time:

      Give them their own address and phone number. At least at Radio Shack they always have a business card at the counter. So many clueless clerks never even noticed. The few that do notice, "Hey, that's our number/address!" you can just chuckle and reply, "Yeah, you can field my junk mail."
  • by forsetti ( 158019 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @07:48PM (#20976921)
    I am not a Verizon customer, but have made calls to many Verizon customers, and have received calls from many Verizon customers. Using only Verizon data, one would be able to reconstruct quite a bit of my calling patterns. Can I call Verizon, and have them withhold calls involving my phone number(s) ?

  • If Sprint does this, I'll be really upset. I can't even get that information for my own phone. My statements contain only "incoming" for incoming calls, so I can't see who all called me. I have even asked customer service, and they say they cannot provide that information.
  • Let's just face the facts, we have no privacy, no lawmakers actually care about privacy, they just promise things that will take as long to go into effect as it will for them to get out of office so they don't have to deal with it again.

    I've got a plan though.
    If enough of us forward calls from suspeted telemarketer numbers to suspected terrorists, we may be able to get rid of two turds, err I mean birds, with one stone.
  • I have tried to use the number to opt-out but it keeps asking for a "password" that I never setup. I guess they don't necessarily want me to be successful at opting-out.

  • Copyright (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CTilluma ( 1046002 ) on Monday October 15, 2007 @11:53AM (#20983087) Homepage
    Would it be possible to copyright my personal information such that providing that information without my express permission would constitute copyright infringement?

How many Unix hacks does it take to change a light bulb? Let's see, can you use a shell script for that or does it need a C program?