Verizon Highlights Its Privacy Policy in the Wake of Windows Phone Rumors

    October 19, 2012

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 neither Verizon nor Microsoft have verified the rumor, Verizon is attempting to spin things its way by releasing a statement on its privacy policy. The company claims that “protecting customer data and safeguarding privacy have always been top priorities at Verizon.”

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:

In 2011, we announced a number of new programs that will help companies better understand mobile consumers in a more detailed and efficient way. None of the data that is used in this program is personally-identifiable, and we do not sell raw data to third-parties. We are not selling your personal data. At the time these programs were announced, we informed our customers of the changes through updates to our privacy policy and through emails or direct mail, depending on preferences for how they wanted us to communicate these types of changes with them.

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.