Earlier today rumors surfaced that Windows Phone 8 devices scheduled to be sold and used on Verizon's network might be delayed or even cancelled. The story is that Verizon wants more access to Windows 8 smartphones, to better collect users' location and web browsing data, and Microsoft isn't budging on user privacy.
Though many of the articles this morning referred to Verizon's data collection efforts as spyware, the company wants everyone to know that they informed customers before they began collecting their data and that customer data is "de-identified" and then aggregated, so it's ok. It's not your data, its everyone's data. From Verizon's statement:
One of these programs provides insights into audiences on the move by connecting aggregated demographic, mobile usage, and location data into useful business and marketing reports. To be clear about this, we are aggregating customer data that has already been de-identified, which means none of it is personally identifiable information.
Verizon goes on to state that they use customer information to group people by demographics and interests, such as age, gender, and "tennis enthusiasts." A profile of everything about a customer, only without the customer's name. The info is then used to deliver mobile ads as well as other advertising based on the demographics of a geographic region.
The company states that customers can opt-out of these programs through the Verizon website or via phone. That does imply, though, that the data collection is opt-in by default.
Verizon is really splitting hairs here. Sure, the raw data isn't sold to companies, but they also admit in no uncertain terms that customer demographic info and postal addresses are being used to serve up ads. The fact is, Verizon is making money, one way or another, by collecting data on their subscribers. The company should stop pretending and simply explain to customers (and Microsoft) why personally-tailored ads aren't necessarily a bad thing.