The update stated that it would share customer’s web and mobile-app data with advertisers starting on April 26. T-Mobile said the program could help advertisers identify users who enjoy cooking or are sports enthusiasts, among other things. The policy will also cover Sprint subscribers who have been transitioned to T-Mobile through the merger last year.
Interestingly, Sprint previously shared that data only if customers opted into the third-party ad program. A T-Mobile spokeswoman tried to put a positive spin on the new policy stating that the carrier had heard customers preferred more relevant ads leading it to default to the shared data setting. T-Mobile is currently the second-largest US carrier by subscriber numbers, with more than 60 million users on post-paid plans and 20 million customers on prepaid plans.
T-Mobile has said that its policy changes won’t apply to business accounts or phone lines for children. Making a move to share customer data by default is in stark contrast to what most of the technology world is doing. AT&T, for example, does automatically enroll subscribers in a basic ad program, placing them into groups based on inferred interests like sports and others.
AT&T does operate an advanced program, but customers have to opt-in for that program. Verizon has a similar program requiring users to opt into data sharing. T-Mobile does say that it hides user identities to prevent advertisers and other companies from knowing what websites individual customers visit or apps that have installed. Privacy groups continue to maintain the device ID used by T-Mobile can be linked back to people by comparing multiple data sets.