Privacy rights advocates are accusing Verizon of possibly violating federal wiretap law over its recent sale of customer information gleaned from mobile phone app use. Apparently Verizon has begun to sell customers’ geographical locations and Web browsing activities to third-party marketers.
According to CNET:
The company this month began offering reports to marketers showing what Verizon subscribers are doing on their phones and other mobile devices, including what iOS and Android apps are in use in which locations. Verizon says it may link the data to third-party databases with information about customers’ gender, age, and even details such as “sports enthusiast, frequent diner or pet owner.”
“We’re able to view just everything that they do,” Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, told an industry conference earlier this year. “And that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation wonders whether disclosing information about customer URL visits to third parties violates the Wiretap Act which prohibits telephone carriers from divulging the contents of any communications.
Thus, if a customer’s URL visit is construed by a court to be the equivalent of a “communication,” it is quite possible the Verizon’s activities will expose it to claims of Wiretap Act violation. We’ll keep a close eye on this one.
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