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Verizon Advertising Businesses Cellphones Privacy The Almighty Buck

Verizon's Plan To Snoop On Its Customers 85

digitalPhant0m writes: "A story at the L.A. Times details how Verizon Wireless has started pushing the envelope (or downright abusing it) when it comes to tracking users without their knowledge. The company said, 'In addition to the customer information that's currently part of the program, we will soon use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites. This identifier may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to websites from your desktop computer to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network.' While newsworthy, the rate of privacy abuse revelations over the last few years makes it unsurprising."
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Verizon's Plan To Snoop On Its Customers

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  • Base station your house and use the older tech for a few miles radius. Takes care of day-to-day needs.
  • They haven't been doing that all along anyway?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Both Verizon and AT&T are directly wired to the NSA. After that, what difference does it make?

      • by krygny ( 473134 )

        The NSA (and the rest of the government) is mostly staffed by incompetent idiots. Mostly. Don't give them more credit than they deserve.

        Then again, sufficient incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

    • They haven't been doing that all along anyway?

      Of course - but now they're getting enough money to push that colonoscope all the way up to your teeth

      (...or did you not know why it is that they charge so damned much for such piddly little bandwidth caps, while you're just-as-able to get unlimited data/voice/text on a Net10-style or similar carrier, using the *same* phones and towers, but for a fraction of the price?)

      • They haven't been doing that all along anyway?

        Of course - but now they're getting enough money to push that colonoscope all the way up to your teeth

        Their actions are leaving a bad taste in my mouth!

    • They haven't been doing that all along anyway?

      I don't expect they could do this legally without stating it somewhere in small print, which is what I gather they've done just now?

      If it were done illegally there would have to have been some kind of criminal conspiracy between Verizon (in this case) as supply and its advertising partners as the demand of such a black market.

      Surely that would have blown before long, at least if the market were large enough to risk it at all. Although, come to think of it, the LIBOR thing ran for quite a while...

      By the way

  • Should Be Illegal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:11PM (#46844015)
    This time there surely must be a law that stops this. Mobile devices may pay by the minute for incoming communications. Therefore receiving an unwanted ad is a form of taking and as such must not be allowed. The same could be said of a PC if one has a monetary penalty for receiving too much data.
    • Devils Advocate stance... They will counter with. We don't include any of that data in your calculated data use for billing / data cap purposes.
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      and how is it different when google does it?

      • It's different because with Google, you're paying for the services your using with this personal data and everyone knows that's the deal. With crap like what Verizon is doing, they're double-dipping, making us pay twice (once with money, once again with our personal data) and not being clear that they're selling you out.

        Verizon is being incredibly sleazy here.

    • Unfortunately, the only way to fight this is with a customer boycott. That is to say that Verizon (and others) will not cease such clandestine activites without their advertisers pulling out.

      The only way advertisers will pull out is with customer backlash, and that means we have to stop buying from companies who use such advertising.

      • I agree. I've been doing this for a long time now. When I see companies using awful practices like this, or ad that come through companies or ad agencies that engage in tracking, I make it a point to avoid buying those products and services. I don't intend it as a punishment or boycott, but it's more that I consider these practices to be despicable and I try my best to avoid doing business with companies that do despicable things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rfrenzob ( 163001 )

      Verizon. We're not happy until you're not happy (TM).

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:11PM (#46844019) Homepage
    A good article would have provided a link to opt-out. A great article would have mentioned addons that block it.

    Also, this appears to be no different than the standard cookie behavior of google, etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:30PM (#46844141)


      Can I refuse permission to use my information for Relevant Mobile Advertising?

      Yes, you can notify us that you do not want us to use your information for Relevant Mobile Advertising by visiting or by calling (866) 211-0874.

      Note: if you have a multi-line account, you must indicate your privacy choices with respect to each individual line.

      In addition, if you would like to prevent third party advertising entities from using information they have about your web browsing across sites unrelated to Verizon, including the use of this information in the Relevant Mobile Advertising program, you can opt-out at

      • Opt out is a cop-out. If it's not opt-in, then it's scammy.

      • you can opt-out at

        Using this "opt-out" requires you to "opt-in" to their cookies.

      • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

        That sounds like a lot of work. I opted-out months ago simply by switching to T-Mobile.

        (I wouldn't be surprised if they're doing something similar, but I find Verizon more sinister, and with T-Mobile's pay-as-you-go plan I'm paying about $10/mo for the privilege.)

      • by Pofy ( 471469 )

        Yes, you can notify us that you do not want us to use your information for Relevant Mobile Advertising by visiting or by calling (866) 211-0874.

        So the tracking was not at all an anonymous identifier since they obviously can link it to you when you contact them to "opt out".

      • I went to the Verizon Wireless privacy [] link and both lines (my wife's and mine) were already opted out. It is very possible that I has previously heard of this and changed my settings, though it was not done recently.

        I tried to go to the " autoads []" page, but I found that to opt out, I had to enable both javascript (no surprise) and cookies. Also, the opt out is shown as a beta tool, so even if I allow cookies and javascript, who knows if it will actually do anything. Hmmm.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If it works for Google, it should work for Verizon!

    Anything to make my targeted ad experience better is a win in my book. I just hope the NSA has access, too, to help fight terrorism.


    • by Anonymous Coward

      Anything to make my targeted ad experience better

      So...that would be "no ads", right? I don't want "better" targeting; my idea of "better" and a company's idea of "better" aren't likely to match up very often.

  • by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:12PM (#46844025)
    Glad I dropped Verizon this spring. If you have the option, vote with your money. I don't want to see this catching on.
    • by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:17PM (#46844057)
      Also, root your phone and install ad-blocking software. Restrict 3rd party cookies, because this will involve a tracking cookie if we are lucky and not some unseen communication.
      • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:28PM (#46844133)

        Better still: hit them in the wallet. Get an all-you-can eat deal with tee mobil if your favorite areas are signal-covered. My bill dropped by 60%. Yeah, I loved Verizon coverage. But they're also a proponent of the end of net neutrality. My strong suggestion: if you're a Verizon customer, vote with your wallet and get the hell out of there. Not that GSM and LTE via t-mobile might be any less fraught with location-based crap, rather, we don't have a vote in America any more: just your $$$.

        • The ONLY thing VZ offers is coverage, and that is not enough to stay with them. The price is too high, and appears to be even higher. Part of my "three strikes"

          1) Changing plans one month before I was due, and not letting me grandfather a month early on renewal
          2) Locked Phones (and CDMA)
          3) Cost for services, even on Grandfathered plans.

          I moved on, haven't regretted the change one bit. I get coverage where I go 95% of the time. That is good enough for me.

        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          And Sprint is still unlimited.
          • From my experience, Sprint is able to offer unlimited data transfer because even if you max out the connection 24/7, you aren't going to hit 10 GB in a month. I couldn't even stream 92kB/s pandora streams.
        • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

          Just want to give a second to T-Mobile. While their coverage is paltry compared to Verizon, I dropped Verizon (and had a poor time with their customer service trying to get pro-rated) back in October and am quite happy with my decision, even with that extra pain.

          Since I barely use my phone I got a pay-as-you-go plan and, at least as I was informed, I can easily upgrade that to a monthly no-contract plan if I need to. (I'll be testing that next month when I upgrade briefly since I'm going on a trip I think I

    • My wife and I had been on Virginmobile since 2003, but her phone died about a year ago while she was visiting her sister out of town. Instead of calling me and asking what she should get to replace it, she signs up with Verizon on a 2 year contract and a fairly nice featurephone. They got her on a $40/mo 700min plan, which for her is a waste of about 600 minutes/month.. She's lucky to do 100 min/mo.. Just recently I discovered, part of the old group. They run on Sprint's towers, and have

  • She acknowledged that a customer's mobile number has to be known to marketers so they can target ads to that specific user, but insisted that the information collected from home computers remains anonymous.

    They give out your phone number so marketers can spam you with text messages, but you remain anonymous. Got it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Some_Llama ( 763766 )

      they mean anonymous as in they only know what sites you visit, what you're interested in, who you are calling, who you receive calls from and how much time you do any of these...anonymous.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:16PM (#46844045)

    I knew something was up when they changed the permissions requirements on their mobile "My Verizon" app I used to use to pay my bill. The new permissions included, well, access to just about everything on my device. I was understandably not going to put up with that, so I reverted to using their website. Now their website is going to (attempt) to track me and then send the details of my web browsing to advertisers, uniquely ID'd and linked to my mobile phone? I'm glad I'm off contract because I am out of here.

    • Vote with your wallet. Buy a GSM / LTE phone like OnePlus ONE and get a SIM, and pay month to month. Stop playing their game. You have the ball, take it and go home.

  • At some point I want to believe some of these abuses will open the
    door to testing of time dilation drugs that could let heinous criminals
    server 1,000 year sentences.

    There are many issues but I just wish that the likes of Mamazon would get
    it that just because I bought a watch last week that I want to buy another
    every three days for six months (and counting).

    A couple years back there was a plug in that would randomly
    visit sites and often blindly follow links so a browser history
    would have a massive pile of de

  • Abuse? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GPS Pilot ( 3683 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:22PM (#46844093)

    If this "anonymous, unique identifier" is a fiction, the "privacy abuse" is obvious.

    On the other hand, if the "anonymous, unique identifier" truly is anonymous, where is the "privacy abuse"? We're going to have ads served to us regardless. Better to have ads that are relevant to my interests than random, irrelevant ads.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In the day and age of cheap large-scale data processing, any unique identifier that is connected to more than a few behavioral data points is inherently non-anonymous.

      Look at it this way - log2(7 billion) is approx 32. So, 32 bits of information (32 true/false questions, cleverly chosen) is all it takes to uniquely identify more or less any person on the planet. Reality is a bit messier, but also many bits will be far more useful than true/false (for instance even a "cleaned" IP that only has the leading tw

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Your IF condition is false. Being labelled with a "unique identifier" is the opposite of anonymous. Whether the unique identifier happens to be a person's name or a serial number acting as a substitute for a name makes no difference.

    • You can't have both "anonymous" and "unique identifier". It's a logical contradiction.

      Better to have ads that are relevant to my interests than random, irrelevant ads.

      To you, perhaps. Personally, I'd much rather have the random irrelevant ads.

    • If this "anonymous, unique identifier" is a fiction, the "privacy abuse" is obvious.

      On the other hand, if the "anonymous, unique identifier" truly is anonymous, where is the "privacy abuse"? We're going to have ads served to us regardless. Better to have ads that are relevant to my interests than random, irrelevant ads.

      I disagree. Ads that don't concern me are easier to ignore. "Targeted Advertizing" is a pretty name for "Manipulation of Potential Customers".

  • by halfEvilTech ( 1171369 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:33PM (#46844165)

    My contract just ended finally. So I am voting with my wallet and going no contract with another carrier and shaving half my bill in the process. There are decent phones out there for the cost of a "subsidized' contract phone that still perform well for mine and my wife's usage scenario.

    so fuck you verizon

    • Oddly enough, I decided last week it was time to stop using Verizon, with much the same results - lower monthly bill, and more than adequate performance.

      And now I find that Verizon was planning on spying on me (more than it already does)...buh-bye, V.

    • But where are you going to go? Do you honestly believe Verizon will be the only company doing this?

  • .... of you b*stards tipped them off about browser cookies?

  • by PixelThis ( 690303 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @05:28PM (#46844569)
    So they create an "anonymous, unique identifier" when you register on their website. Anonymous for who? They obviously have a link between you, the registration on the website, and this unique identifier. Where does the anonymous bit come in?
  • I wasn't aware that there was a Politically-Correct (PC) term for "Advertising"... but that must be it?

  • I don't see how this is not a wiretapping law abuse. They are collecting data above and beyond there own site and business. They should have zero right to collect where we go and what we do. The Police need a search warrant to gain this information Call or write your elected officials maybe a complaint to the FCC too. So now a business can do anything they want since we buy there products i just cant see how this is legal
  • That they would stoop to this level of tracking on consumers....

    ...because, being Verizon, I assumed they had started doing it years ago!

  • If the marketers are so sure that people really want this drag-netting then let those that are so keen to have it actually choose it.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban