That didn’t take long; Senator Richard Blumenthal has demanded that AT&T rethink its plans to offer ad-subsidized phone plans.
As we reported this morning, AT&T CEO John Stankey told Reuters in an interview that the company was looking at offering $5 to $10 off of plans in exchange for displaying ads on the user’s phone. In our report, we raised issues with what we labeled “quite possibly one of the worst, most consumer-unfriendly ideas put forth by a company in recent years.”
It seems that Senator Blumenthal agrees, slamming the wireless carrier for its plans.
”I am alarmed that AT&T’s announcement threatens to create a race to the bottom, trampling over long-held consumers expectations and leaving privacy as a right exclusive to the rich,” wrote Blumenthal in a letter to Stankey.
Senator Blumenthal also takes issue with AT&T’s plans to monitor and track users across devices, and says that customers should not have to choose between privacy and cost.
“The prospect of AT&T monitoring consumers’ phone and internet records, matching them across devices and data broker records, and then using that private information to manipulatively target people is outright chilling.
“AT&T should not hold privacy above consumers’ heads for additional cost. Rather than a benefit, it is clear that AT&T is seeking to legitimize more intrusion into consumers’ lives and more aggressively commoditize subscribers. AT&T’s announcement would create a “pay-for-privacy” standard in the increasingly consolidated phone market, driving prices up for those who want to opt out. You also acknowledge that an ad-supported wireless plan would cross-fertilize its AT&T data broker and ad targeting products, adding to the race to the bottom that exists in the internet ecosystem. In holding out nominal discounts in exchange for the intrusive surveillance and aggressive monetization of private information, AT&T is manipulatively pitting consumers’ welfare and privacy against constrained budgets.”
Senator Blumenthal has requested a written response by October 18. Given the sweeping implications of AT&T’s proposed action, hopefully this quick pushback will cause them—and any other companies considering such ideas—to reconsider.