AT&T Wants Us to Pay Them With Our Money And Our Privacy – How to Opt Out

I received an email from AT&T today. Did you? It turns out that AT&T is revising its privacy policy to make it “easier to understand” and by the way, also to let us know that they want us to pay them with our money and our privacy, too. Unless we opt out, the company is going to start selling information about where we go, what we search for, what apps we use, and what we watch, to other businesses. On top of that, they want to send us advertisements based on our location, too.

The company tries to calm any fears about our sensitive information ending up who knows where, being used for who knows what, by saying, don’t worry, it will be “anonymous” information about groups of customers. But AT&T, I am not buying it.

If these data sets were not chock full of valuable information about habits, hobbies and activities, AT&T would not be so interested in selling them and others would not want to buy them. We also know that anonymous data sets often do not stay anonymous for long.

Recent academic research shows that it takes as few as four location data points to uniquely identify 95% of individuals. Documents unearthed by the ACLU in 2011 reveal that AT&T has a hefty stockpile of location data about its customers, perhaps going as far back as 2008. Web searches have been de-anonymized as well. AOL thought it had anonymized a data set of 657,000 users and web searches back in 2006, but it did not take long to link searches for “60 single men,” “landscapers in Lilburn, GA,” people with the last name Arnold, and homes sold in her subdivision, to an elderly widow named Thelma Arnold who lived in Lilburn, Georgia. And portions of a Netflix data set that included 10 million movie rankings by 500,000 customers were de-anonymized in 2007. Add in information about the mobile apps we use, such as the public transportation app that helps us get around town, or the fitness app we use to monitor our health, and it is not hard to imagine that these AT&T data sets could potentially go a long way to identifying many of us and revealing intimate details about what we do, where we go, and who we know.

So yes, I will be opting out of AT&T using my wireless location information, U-verse information, and website browsing and mobile application usage for “external marketing and analytics reports.” I can do so by visiting att.com/cmpchoice, or calling 1.866.344.9850.

I am also not interested in AT&T making inferences about my interests based on where I may travel and sending me advertisements based on my location. So, I will be opting out of this new invasive program too. I will have to visit adworks.att.com/adpreferences from each of my computers or adworks.att.com/mobileoptout from each of my mobile devices.

AT&T has also invited feedback about its privacy policy. My feedback is: AT&T, I am not interested in paying you with my money and my privacy, too. I am relieved that as a telecommunications company, you must comply with some existing privacy laws and that at least I had the opportunity to opt-out of your selling my information. But as companies like yours collect more and more data, retain it for long periods of time, and then share it, sell it, and hand it over to the government, it becomes even more clear why we really need to strengthen privacy protections for the modern digital world. I hope that many others will join me in learning more and taking action to demand a privacy upgrade at www.dotrights.org.

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Bill from Florida

What a passionate article... I wonder if you use a iPhone, an iPad or Google? Maybe an Android user? How many articles have you written about how these companies have been collecting your data since day one? Yet you don't seem as passionate or outraged these other companies.

Seems funny to me how un-educated people are about this topic...

Bill
Stock ownership in AT&T, Verizon and Apple.

Young Minded Youth

sharing this message to my AT&T friends whenever the conversations comes up, thank you

Anonymous

Credo is good.

alexander hollins

I am reminded of the three dead trolls in a baggie song , the privacy song. I intend to LIE. screw with GPS settings, use apps I don't plan on using, and search for random shit, to screw with their database.

Tex Texin

What does this mean for the privacy of people that AT&T users call?
If an AT&T user calls me, my location becomes known to AT&T. If I am called by several users, or if I call stores that use AT&T, is my data also recorded and can I opt out even though I am not an AT&T customer?

Anonymous

Can't get the mobile AT&T opt-out site to work on the iPad. Get this message:

"AT&T AdWorks is committed to helping you make informed decisions about receiving Relevant Advertising. We make some of the ads you see more relevant, valuable, and interesting by serving ads that better match your aggregate characteristics such as your age, gender, types of locations that people in your area might visit and your interests like sports or travel.

It appears that you are currently using a wired connection or Wi-Fi. Please disconnect your Wi-Fi. Then click Refresh below to opt-out." <-- if I turn off wifi and refresh, it doesn't work because I don't have a connection! I can't connect using wired Internet since it's an iPad, not a computer...

Anonymous

WELCOME TO 1984.

Anonymous

Not one mention of awareness that opting out is based on cookies. If your browser is set to delete cookies on closing, you are automatically opted back in, deceptively clever.

ATT http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/opt-outfaq/
19-21
If your browser does not accept third-party cookies or if you have a browser with specific privacy controls that you have edited to delete cookies after each session, you may not be able to opt out. Opt-outs rely on cookies to operate. But this should not concern you...

Sometimes my opt-out choice seems to disappear. Do I have to opt out over and over?

Opt-outs are cookie based, so you can inadvertently delete them when you delete cookies on your browser or if you have antispyware software installed that deletes cookies regularly... There are other tools available that will restore opt-out cookies that you can install for your browser.

You'll have to check the opt-out page from time to time to ensure your opt-out is still active...

Anonymous

It only gets worse, before you believe you are opted out of unauthorized tapping, eavesdropping of communications, look at -http://www.aboutads.info/choices/- hundreds of spying adserving eyes, hundreds of opt out sites and cookies to set. This is concerning, I no longer feel even a little secure in web browsing much less shopping, passwords, account numbers, e-mail all being scanned and analyzed for unidentified keywords (cannot obtain list). Why is this being allowed, being forced on us. It would be one thing if an opt in choice were provided for those who want to opt in, why are we all being opted in and given option to opt out which can not even be assured is truly opting out or being reset. Riddle me this, if some creepy unknown person (or a dozen or a hundred) started following you everywhere you went, watching, waiting, listening to phone calls, reading your mail, how long would it take you to start filing complaints, filing for injunction to cease and desist. I have already filed FCC and PSC complaints, but PSC can't do anything ( but forward complaint to Dept of Agriculture who quickly let ATT 'investigate' say there's no problem, and close complaint. I am disabled & poor, don't want my limited finances and medical condition, unlisted private line and personal affairs being spied on, pried into under the questionable guise of advertising.

Anonymous

It only gets worse, before you believe you are opted out of unauthorized tapping, eavesdropping of communications, look at -http://www.aboutads.info/choices/- hundreds of spying ad-serving eyes, hundreds of opt out sites and cookies to set. This is concerning, I no longer feel even a little secure in web browsing much less shopping, passwords, account numbers, e-mail all being scanned and analyzed for unidentified keywords (cannot obtain list). Why is this being allowed, being forced on us. It would be one thing if an opt in choice were provided for those who want to opt in, why are we all being opted in and given option to opt out which can not even be assured is truly opting out or not being reset. Riddle me this, if some creepy unknown person (or a dozen or a hundred) started following you, your wife or children every where you/they went, watching, waiting, listening to phone calls, reading your mail, how long would it take you to start filing complaints, filing for injunction to cease and desist. I have already filed FCC and PSC complaints, but PSC can't do anything ( but forward complaint to Dept of Agriculture who quickly let ATT 'investigate' say there's no problem, and close complaint. I am disabled & poor, don't want my limited finances and medical condition, unlisted private line and personal affairs being spied on, pried into under the questionable guise of advertising by who knows who.

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