Wireless Phone Companies Reportedly Peddling your Personal Info

According to a new report by CNN, some cell phone companies are admittedly selling your personal information to the highest bidder.

About two weeks ago, Verizon changed its privacy policy to allow the company to record customer location data and Internet usage, combine it with personal information such as age and gender, aggregate it with other customer data and then sell it on an anonymous basis.

“Verizon revealed the industry’s strategy,” explained Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “This is more than the camel’s nose under the tent. With NFC [near field communication, an emerging technology for mobile payments] and GPS, there’s a new digital gold rush here, and wireless companies want to reap the tremendous financial rewards that will come with dominating a local advertising market.”

Chester also added that other carriers, such as Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T compile similar information, but that Verizon was just the first to fess up to the practice.

“They’re all doing this,” Chester told CNN. “Everyone is aware that big growth in the digital economy is mobile and location-based services.”

Selling customer information is an age-old practice that is certainly not exclusive to the wireless industry. Brian Kennish, a former DoubleClick engineer who developed the advertising network’s mobile ad server, noted that wireless companies have been sharing users’ location data with third parties for more than a decade.

But the rise of smartphones has given mobile providers a whole new level of personal information: The gadgets are hyper-personalized tracking devices that “know” more about their owners than any other product on the market.

“The Web pages we go to and searches we do are the closest thing to our thoughts, the most private info of all, that can be recorded,” said Kennish, who now heads up Disconnect, an online privacy tool. “If Verizon succeeds, I’m sure others will follow. Despite all the talk about privacy lately, things are just getting worse.”

via CNN