Verizon Wireless is facing criticism and possibly even a lawsuit for selling customers’ phone activity to marketers. Such activity consists of geographical location, browsing habits, and app usage. The company began offering this information to marketers just recently, and it shows what Verizon subscribers are doing on their phones, including both iOS and Android devices.
Bill Diggins, US chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, said that the company is “able to view just everything that [users] do.” He also mentioned that this apparently shouldn’t be a big deal by saying, “And that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.” Except oil usually doesn’t contain personal information.
Verizon says what they’re doing is completely legal, since the information is aggregated and doesn’t reveal the identities of its customers. The company also says that its customers can opt out at any time. However, staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury, who works with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, thinks otherwise.
“I don’t see any substantive difference between collecting content from one person and turning it over to someone, and collecting it from multiple people, aggregating that information and then turning the aggregated data over to someone else…In the end, there is still a capturing of content from the user at some point — and that’s what the potential (Wiretap Act) problem is.”
Verizon declined to answer any questions, but it did offer a statement on the matter. The company says their program “complies with the law and protects the privacy” of its customers. Since the data is aggregated, Verizon says the reports do not “disclose the content of specific customer communications.”