AT&T to anonymously sell customer location data to deliver more customized ads. Do we really want that?

Bradley Wint
By: - 8th Jul 2013
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AT&T will be using customer’s location data to develop more personalized ads and products for its various market segments.

Today’s companies are looking for every way possible to deliver better products and service to its customers by mining data collected from their present consumer base. Amazon is a prime example of a company that knows how to convert user data into strategies to upsell other products, but when it comes to a name like AT&T, it doesn’t exactly sit too well in the minds of their respective customers.

If you missed it, AT&T updated their privacy policy informing customers that it will sell chunks of anonymously aggregated data that consists of location data. The mentioned data would be sold to 3rd party companies such as advertising agencies, retailers, and other marketing firms to better deliver customized products and advertisement for different consumer segments.

Aggregate and Anonymous Data: This is data that can’t be tracked back to you individually.  Here’s an easy example: After an election in your community, officials will release the final vote tally.  They might say that 60 percent of the voters picked Candidate A and 40 percent picked Candidate B.  That information is a type of aggregate and anonymous data.  It’s “aggregate” because it combines information for the whole community telling you who the community as a whole voted for, and it is anonymous because the data doesn’t tell you who voted for which candidate.  In the Internet world, aggregate and anonymous data can be used by retailers, advertisers and marketing companies to figure out what consumers want in a particular area.  You benefit by having better products available and seeing advertising more relevant to your particular consumer segment.

They promise that these 3rd parties will never be able to target a particular customer since it’s aggregated into one pile, and even give the option to opt out if users feel concerned about their privacy. As with many US companies, the program forces the ‘opt-in’ hand and then allows individual customers to opt-out if they feel the need to. They plan to send written notice of the new arrangement, but have worded their plan in such a way that it doesn’t exactly come across too clearly and could be skimmed over without much notice.

Given the recent NSA exposé and AT&T clearly admitting to opening up their customer databases for government access, it makes us a bit wary as to how anonymous our data really is. Even if customers choose to opt-out, there really is little way to tell if AT&T follows through with the request or not.

If you want to opt-out, simply click here.

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