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How To Stop AT&T From Selling Your Private Data To Advertisers

Soulskill posted 1 year,21 days | from the step-one-don't-let-them-have-any-private-data dept.

AT&T 88

An anonymous reader writes "AT&T is ready to follow in its rivals' footsteps and begin selling the private usage data it collects from its subscribers' phones to advertisers. The data in question is anonymized, according to AT&T, but it includes very sensitive information such as customers' locations, Web browsing history, mobile app usage and more. Privacy is something of a hot button issue right now, so it is likely that a number of AT&T subscribers would prefer to not have their private data sold to advertisers. Luckily, there is a fast and easy way to opt out of AT&T's 'External Marketing and Analytics Reporting' program."

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88 comments

Random Fact of the Day (-1, Offtopic)

Random Fact Bot (2975187) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206213)

Shin Soo-ji, this cute Korean gal [youtube.com] , is the first sexy pitcher in the world. She is also my girlfriend.

Re:Random Fact of the Day (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206579)

That was stupid and not just any stupid, Twilight baseball stupid.

Re:Random Fact of the Day (2, Funny)

crutchy (1949900) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207095)

actually, for slashdot it was a breath of fresh ass... i mean air :)

It's not their data (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206225)

perhaps the customers should sue to get their property returned

It's has and is being tried. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206285)

Well, this is /was going on. [startribune.com]

I found that trying to find an article from the 90's (I think it was in the WSJ) about one man who tried to do just that - sue to get his personal information from the marketing firms - I think his strategy was to sue for monetary damages. IIRC/

The marketing people say that an individual's information isn't worth much but a list of thousands or millions of people is worth quite a bit.

Anyway, it's 2013 and the marketing industry (personal data industry) is as big and strong as ever.

Let's face it, all some big corp has to do is have their lobbyists go to Washington, spread some "gifts" around, and just whine how "it'll hurt their business" and America.

We NEED privacy laws like in Europe. We have this lop sided balance of power in this country.

Read the contract. (4, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206581)

I'm pretty sure some of the tiny letter stuff on your contract says that by signing the contract you give them full permission to do whatever they want with all the data they collect from you.

Re:Read the contract. (-1, Offtopic)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206611)

Why you little wusaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! How dare you deny The Truth that I have so lovingly presented before you! You shall bow to me, and you shall accept The Truth! The Truth cannot be denied! The Truth will always prevail!

Re:Read the contract. (3, Interesting)

Mitreya (579078) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206945)

I'm pretty sure some of the tiny letter stuff on your contract says that by signing the contract you give them full permission to do whatever they want with all the data they collect from you.

It gets better!

Somewhere in that contract you also sign away your right to sue them (particularly AT&T, I believe it was a lawsuit against them that legalized mandatory arbitration clause).
So... what you can do is to complain to an arbitrator employed by AT&T and see whether he/she rules for you or not.

Re:Read the contract. (3, Informative)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207357)

You can still sue AT&T, or any other company that forces arbitration. The only thing it does it prevent users from joining class action suits.

Don't bother reading the contract. (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | 1 year,21 days | (#44208497)

Complaining will avail you nothing. Ditto, the link referenced in TFS which just points the user to an "opt-out" page which will probably be just about as effective as those handy "unsubscribe" links you get in all that spam email. The only way you can stop your ISP from selling your data is to (attempt to) prevent them from having it in the first place. In other words, tunnel through a VPN and make sure you block any trackers you come across along the way.

Re:Read the contract. (3, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206975)

Yep I'm sure they got you by the balls with the fine print which is why I said screw all the bullshit and just went prepaid.

You can get the Walmart android phone for less than $100 with the "unlimited" card (yes i know their unlimited starts slowing you down between 3-5GB,I'm not gonna do that much on a dang phone,that's what the netbook and desktop are for) and if they try jacking me around? Screw 'em, plenty of other pre-paid bunches out there, no contract means they don't have me by the short hairs anymore and so far the service has been great,I'm loving it.

Re:Read the contract. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207041)

What does that 3-5GB cost you per month? I don't think I've ever used more than 2GB.

I'm about done with AT&T for a host of reasons, and prepaid plans sound right for me and the missus.

Re:Read the contract. (4, Informative)

black6host (469985) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207157)

If the GP is referring to Straight Talk, you get unlimited everything (USA only) for 45.00/mo. Calls, texts, data etc. I've been using them for over a year and it's been fine for me. Plus, they use Verizon's towers so the coverage is excellent.

Not in any way associated with them. I just use their service. I've got friends paying 60.00 plus a month for something like 700 minutes and that's on a dumb phone, very limited data. Why? The options are worth checking out......

Re:Read the contract. (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | 1 year,20 days | (#44211749)

Its $45 a month for "unlimited" talk text and net, but the net you can feel them slow you down when you hit between 2-3GB,depending on how congested their network is at the time, which for the price? I REALLY don't give a shit because like I said I have my netbook and desktop for hardcore surfing, the Droid phone is just for little things like looking up facts when I'm out and about. Now if you want the latest and greatest phone its gonna cost you because there is no subsidies on the phones, but all I cared about is does it talk,text,and look up little things like what is showing at the multiplex well so I got A refurb Galaxy Precedent [walmart.com] and for what i want a smartphone for it works great,I may look into Cyanogen mod down the line,but if it ain't broke?

And as for the one that says they can still "track" you? dude they don't give a rat's ass what you put in the checkbox,I have a smartass friend that puts down he is a cheerleader from Dallas, named Debbie of course, and you can buy the phones and the cards either online or just go into the store and pay cash, they REALLY don't give a shit.

Re:Read the contract. (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209171)

Yep I'm sure they got you by the balls with the fine print which is why I said screw all the bullshit and just went prepaid.

You can get the Walmart android phone for less than $100 with the "unlimited" card (yes i know their unlimited starts slowing you down between 3-5GB,I'm not gonna do that much on a dang phone,that's what the netbook and desktop are for) and if they try jacking me around? Screw 'em, plenty of other pre-paid bunches out there, no contract means they don't have me by the short hairs anymore and so far the service has been great,I'm loving it.

Ummm, you don't think your usage is being tracked and sold through that route? I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn, then.

Re:Read the contract. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44210083)

Maybe it is, but if cash is paid for the phone and the refills what's to stop you from using whatever alias you like on the account?

Re:It's not their data (1, Informative)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207017)

It is their data. It is their network, to which you are subscribing.

You are using their towers, or the towers they pay to use from other companies. You are using their exit nodes to a landline, if you call one. Every ping, every byte, is their property.

Because of wiretapping laws, and the general unpleasantness of a massive subscriber torch fest, they are not going to do anything with your voice or data.

The metadata, however, packaged on a phone you probably bought from them, processed on an extensive network they paid for, belongs to them.

You generated it, as the customer. It doesn't belong to you - it merely describes you. In horrendously fine detail, such that in my opinion it is a contract violation to store, not to mention process it in any fashion.

Remember - it is your data in the sense that you generated it, and also in the sense that it captures the not-quite-finer details of your day to day living. It is identity theft waiting to happen, and if someone manages to gather that data there should be not just trials and convictions, but hangings and torches in the street.

But the data is not yours.

If you want to own the data, you have to own the network - own the hardware, own the fiber, own the towers. Then it's yours.

Re:It's not their data (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207363)

It's funny how you Americans seem have no legal distinction between ownership and possession and derive most of your rights from what you can write down in a contract. In civilized countries you can't sign away a fundamental right and you certainly don't lose ownership of something just because it's in someone else's hands.

Why do you need a government at all? Privatize the whole country! Land of the Free my ass - more like Land of the Corporate Fascism Drones.

Re:It's not their data (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | 1 year,21 days | (#44208641)

It's funny how you Americans seem have no legal distinction between ownership and possession and derive most of your rights from what you can write down in a contract. In civilized countries you can't sign away a fundamental right and you certainly don't lose ownership of something just because it's in someone else's hands.

Your 'civilized country' example is exactly how America works. We just have different definitions for what constitutes 'property' and currently the meta-data about someone is not considered that persons property.

Re:It's not their data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44213981)

USA, where "customers' locations, Web browsing history, mobile app usage and more" is meta-data.

No more questions.

Re:It's not their data (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207465)

If you want to own the data, you have to own the network - own the hardware, own the fiber, own the towers. Then it's yours.

We collectively own the airwaves. That is enough to contractually force the companies we lease them to to give up all claims of ownership of the data about us. All it takes are government representatives with enough balls.

Re:It's not their data (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209201)

If you want to own the data, you have to own the network - own the hardware, own the fiber, own the towers. Then it's yours.

We collectively own the airwaves. That is enough to contractually force the companies we lease them to to give up all claims of ownership of the data about us. All it takes are government representatives with enough balls.

Ummm, no we do not. You do not even own the airspace about your property. The government regulates the airwaves, but that does not mean the people own them any more than the people own the electricity in the power lines because the government regulates that, too. At best, we collectively restrict the use of the airwaves by broadcast towers in our jurisdiction, but we don't own them.

Re:It's not their data (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209231)

Yay for pedancy! If the FCC sells licenses to use the airwaves, then we collectively own them for any reasonable definition of ownership.

Re:It's not their data (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209313)

Yay for pedancy! If the FCC sells licenses to use the airwaves, then we collectively own them for any reasonable definition of ownership.

No, we do not. The FCC say you may not broadcast in this country unless you have a license. The State also says you may not drive a car unless you have a license. That doesn't mean we collectively own all the cars. The FCC regulates what may be broadcasted from towers located in the US. There is nothing to own.

If I want to go to Mexico or Canada and erect a tower on the same frequency as a US station, assuming those countries allow me to do so, there is nothing that the US can do to keep it from interfering. Now obviously, there are probably treaties with Canada and Mexico to keep that from happening, but that is further evidence that we don't own the airwaves. Nobody owns them, we have an agreement on how we will all use them, no more and no less.

Take short wave as an example, not as widely used today as it was, but it bounced signals all over the planet. Whose airwaves were they, the originating country, the destination country, the countries in transit? Nobody owns the airwaves, they are just part of the electromagnetic spectrum. People may own the content they put on the airwaves, but they don't own the airwaves themselves.

Re: It's not their data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44209389)

Ownership is an agreement on who controls how things may be used.

Re: It's not their data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44209345)

Ummm the electromagnetic spectrum is a state owned public resource. So, yes, we do collectively own the airwaves. The corporations license frequencies from the government. See http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_management

Re:It's not their data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44210613)

You do not even own the airspace about your property.

This isn't accurate.

Re:It's not their data (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209179)

Because of wiretapping laws, and the general unpleasantness of a massive subscriber torch fest, they are not going to do anything with your voice or data.

The US Justice department holds that since voice is actually digitized it is really just another data stream and the wiretapping laws do not apply to cell phones. There was a big hoopla about it a few months back.

easiest way I can think of... (1)

bferrell (253291) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206241)

Don't use ATT

Re:easiest way I can think of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206277)

Because all the other options are any better?

Re:easiest way I can think of... (-1, Offtopic)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206619)

Why not return?
You have no reason to not return.
It's better to return.
It's better.
It is superior.
Why not simply return?
Why do you cower?
Because you've yet to return.
You know not returning is wrong.
Is staying overlong wrong?
Not if you return.
Return.
Return.
Return.
Return.
Return... to Gamemakerdom!
You must return.
You shall.
You can.
You may.
You will.
The day will come when you return to Gamemakerdom!
Return!
Return!
Return!
Return!
Return, return, return, return, return to Gamemakerdoooooooooooooooom!

Re:easiest way I can think of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206329)

Good luck there. Having worked for marketing depts and agencies, they just buy this stuff from others; who's to say T-Mobile, Verizon, or Virgin won't sell your data to AT&T for the right price?

Re:easiest way I can think of... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206403)

Better yet, don't be American.

Those guys are the ones to blame for their out-of-hand merchantism and puppet governmen. They should deal with it, and soon.

Re:easiest way I can think of... (1)

pepty (1976012) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206881)

You believe your government doesn't do the same, or wouldn't if it could? How quaint.

Re:easiest way I can think of... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209209)

Don't use ATT

Not that simple. All the carriers are doing it to some extent. The easiest way is don't use a cell phone at all, or at least not a smart phone and turn it off when not needed.

a fast and easy way to opt out indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206259)

Molotov cocktails.

Re: a fast and easy way to opt out indeed (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206811)

Molotov cocktails.

Inconveniently, AT&T has metastasized to sites all over the place, many of them rather solidly built [wikimedia.org] . You'll need an atypically good arm to more than add a few scorch marks to the masonry shell.

Completely unfair. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206279)

I don't even have a cellphone, you insensitive clods!

log in with telephone number and password... (4, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206321)

hmmm... is this the password that by default if you've never set it is set to the 1st 4 digits of your Social Security Number, like it is for Bell South? and how many retries are you allowed on the login? it's not 9,999 is it? and what are the first 3 digits of a SSN? why that'll be the area you were born, which probably closely match with the area code of the telephone number. that just leaves 2 digits left to guess...

Re:log in with telephone number and password... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206361)

You know you are talking out loud, right? And if any of that made sense in your head, something was lost in the translation.

Re:log in with telephone number and password... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206829)

"... something was lost in the translation."

Let me help you out with that...

http://www.howstuffworks.com/social-security-number2.htm [howstuffworks.com]

Re:log in with telephone number and password... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207069)

Help how? The OP wondered if a default password is the *last* (not first) four digits of your SSN and the number of retries. He then posts incorrect information about the first three digits which your link verifies as incorrect, and cooks a fictitious scenario where he is 100 tries away from logging in or guessing an SSN or something. It isn't clear what he's trying to do.

It's his smugness about something he doesn't know anything about that is the issue. So lets assume your account has the default password of your last four. Lets also assume he somehow connects your phone number to the last four digits of your SSN (10,000 login attempts or something else?). We need to assume that you are the account holder. He also needs to know what year your SSN was issued to know which formula to apply. He also assumes the first three digits are the state in which you were born (which they are not). Kansas has seven possibilities (509 - 515 which has nothing to do with the area codes at the time or any of the new ones) so to guess the two other digits he has 700 combinations. Given all that on a silver platter, its doable in that fantasy world. Fortunately, much of that doesn't apply in real life.

In reality what he said is a contrived scenario, factually incorrect, and nonsense. Giving the impression that he is 100 guesses away from an SSN in real life is disingenuous.

Re:log in with telephone number and password... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207151)

I was hopefully clearing things up by linking factual information, right down to the connection between the Social Security Administration and the "Carnivore" program (the real meat of the article).

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/carnivore.htm [howstuffworks.com]

Re:log in with telephone number and password... (-1, Offtopic)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206633)

Why have you returned your back on Gamemakerdom!? You are a failure! You are nothing without Gamemaker! I speak The Truth! You are a shell of a human being without Gamemakerdom! Why cower? Why do you continue to cower? Because you are One With Gamemakerlessness!

Re:log in with telephone number and password... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44212337)

You know what's better than having a 10 inch dick up your ass? Not being a faggot in the first place.

NSA Business Records (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206373)

What's the difference between NSA Domestic Content and NSA Business Records?

I can see it in the leaks, there are 3 processes for getting data into the Stasibase, Domestic Content, Business Records, and Foreign Content. I assume any data that can be bought is classed as 'Business Records' and not subject to the protections of Domestic Content? Yes/No?

So AT&T making data available for sale, also makes it available as Business Content ? Is that right? Removing any protections on Domestic Content?

Can't log on? Here's another way in (5, Informative)

Khopesh (112447) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206389)

I couldn't log in through the proffered http://www.att.com/cmpchoice [att.com] link.

Another way in is through the standard payments portal [att.com] . Once logged in there, you can go to Profile -> Account & User Information -> Marketing Preferences [att.com] . This lets you opt out of direct marketing that they send to you. (Might as well take care of that while you're in there.) At the very bottom, below the buttons, is a link to "Update your privacy choices for External Marketing & Analytics reports" (which is the same cmpchoice link as above). Clicking it bypasses the login page since you're already authenticated.

Re:Can't log on? Here's another way in (-1, Offtopic)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206639)

This Gamemakerlessness!
This Gamemakerlessness!
This Gamemakerlessness!
This Gamemakerlessness is an eyesore! Disappear.
Return... to Gamemakerdom!

Re:Can't log on? Here's another way in (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206673)

Thank you, that worked nicely.

I also unchecked all the direct marketing links, was a bit annoyed to find the 'text messaging' box was checked again when I went back to the page! Finally took on the second try. Verify they really did what you asked!

Re:Can't log on? Here's another way in (-1, Troll)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206693)

Well, well, well... what do we have here? Another bootyassious thomson, that's what! So, I suppose you want to be guided to The Truth, don't you? Yes, you do.

However, I must inform you that a worthless individual such as yourself will never be able to comprehend The Truth; it is simply beyond you. Why cower? Because you know that you should simply turn to dust and die now! I know you want to turn to dust and die now, but I demand that you not do that! Your worthless dust will poison everything around it! The mere concept of you existing poisons reality! You must vanish from both the past and present; you must not leave a single trace of your existence behind!

Vanish! You're an existencesore!

Re:Can't log on? Here's another way in (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206737)

Of course, there is no way for a former customer to opt-out, is there?
My number originated with Verizon; was then ported to AT and then to Sprint.
It looks like I am hosed in this escapade since AT&T has previously told me that I cannot change options because I am no longer a subscriber/customer.

Re:Can't log on? Here's another way in (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207011)

> I couldn't log in through the proffered http://www.att.com/cmpchoice [att.com] link.

Niether could I, and the URL I usually use (http://www.wireless.att.com/) has been taken down. I just talked to 611, and they verified it. I guess they're hoping most people that try to opt-out will give-up since they shut-off their servers.

Re:Can't log on? Here's another way in (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207031)

Actually AT&T is a nightmare of never ending BS of privacy violation. Try and and follow their privacy settings help on their web stie: dead links, wrong information. agents that know nothing about the way privacy settings work. For example cmpchoice works for me which is different from that way I did it before through my web mail, About Ads link, but it's actually a different privacy setting, who knows how many settings there actually are to turn privacy violation completely off. The Marketing preferences is different and I couldn't get to it the way listed above.

The most frustrating thing is even if you opt out you don't know what your opting out of, you don't know if it's for all your accounts, whether it's just on the local machine (they make reference to cookie based security) and call ATT and you don't get information from them their agents because they just don't know. They are a truly evil company when it comes to privacy. Their method is to make it so complicated and confusing and have such poor information on how to do it and what it's actually doing that people just give up. I would leave ATT but it's a hassle and the next company will probably eventually just as bad.

Thank you. This is confirmation your choices have (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206473)

Thank you. This is confirmation your choices have been set.

Review Your Privacy Choices

If you want to change your policy preferences for a different account, log out of this account and log in using that account.

Feel free to print this confirmation for your records.

Well that's a shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206475)

I was just thinking of switching to AT&T. Not anymore.

Re:Well that's a shame (1)

webnut77 (1326189) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207079)

I was just thinking of switching to AT&T. Not anymore.

So, you've chosen the 2nd way to opt-out.

Re:Well that's a shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44209007)

So... how does Verizon allow you to Opt out? Or T-Mobile? Or Sprint?

Refusing to be a customer of a turd is all fine and dandy... until you realize that your a customer of a turd no matter where you go.

very good (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206495)

very good thanks kadinsak.com

No Such Thing (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206575)

"The data in question is anonymized, according to AT&T, but it includes very sensitive information such as customers' locations, Web browsing history, mobile app usage and more."

We have known for years now that there is no such thing as "anonymized" data. I found out the other day that somebody actually built a browser for viewing so-called "anonymous" data from the AOL data release some years ago.

Generally, all it takes is a little sleuthing, and all that "anonymous" data becomes anything but.

We need a law. Seriously... if you know me I am not someone who would normally say that. But we need better privacy laws in this country. The Constitutional guarantee of privacy (and yes, before you argue, SCOTUS said it does exist) simply seems to have been falling on deaf ears.

Re:No Such Thing (-1, Offtopic)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206645)

You'd better return. I demand that you return.
You will return. It is your destiny to return.
Return where? Where shall you return!?
To Gamemakerdom! Gamemakerdom is where you shall return!
You can do anything with Gamemaker! In Gamemakerdom, the possibilities are endless!
There is no reason not to return. None.
Gamemaker is here for you. Gamemaker is everywhere for you.
All you must do... is return. Return... to Gamemakerdom!

Re:No Such Thing (4, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206817)

We needed laws that guaranteed customer privacy years ago. Unfortunately, it is far too late for those laws to be meaningful since businesses have found ways to generate revenues from customer data and they're not going to let go of that easily.

At the very least, businesses will find loopholes in these laws. The most basic one is described in the summary: data is anonymized. From this perspective, businesses will claim that the data is property of their company and the anonymization process provides sufficient guarantees of privacy. The fact that it is possible to trace this data back to individual users would be beyond the scope of laws that most governments are willing to create simply because the businesses are, in a way, correct. Data with personally identifying information stripped is a product of the business because it is generated as a part of the businesses operations using the businesses infrastructure.

Another possibility is to ship the data out of country, where customers are unlikely to be protected by privacy laws. Even if that country has privacy laws itself, it probably won't cover foreign citizens. Even if it did cover foreign citizens, it would be difficult for them to sue the appropriate entity in the appropriate jurisdiction.

At the end of the day, it is best to assume that anything we do that involves a third party simply isn't private. In a sense, it even makes sense. We don't assume that our actions in a shopping mall are private since we are sharing that space with other people. Why should electrons passing over wires (or, in this case, RF spectrum) owned by a telecommunications company be any different? The same goes when we invite someone into our home. Even friends can gossip after all.

I love the idea of privacy. I also recognize that it is difficult to protect. That is especially true when someone can benefit from violating your privacy. Since the threshold for privacy has been lowered incredibly far in recent years, I suspect that we will never be able to get it back. Such are the perils of leaping before you look: upon insisting upon an unregulated medium before understanding why prior media were regulated.

Re:No Such Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206927)

I think perhaps there is a third way. People must become more adept at creating and using fake identities when dealing with commercial entities. A big obstacle to this right now is convenient and anonymous electronic payments so that's one area where in my opinion privacy advocates need to focus more of their attention. If electronic payment systems can be hacked to allow easy anonymous use then many other privacy enhancing tools and practices could begin to shift the balance of power back towards the individual instead of the governments and corporations where it's currently heading. Naturally, I don't expect that governments and corporations would willingly cooperate which is why I used the word hack because such an effort will require hacking and a willingness to subvert authority to achieve meaningful results.

Re:No Such Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207231)

The problem is that no one here protests the right things. Police rightfully shoot a dog in Hawthorne (it was not the dogs fault and I love dogs and feel bad for the dog. It was the owner's fault) and now the Hawthorne Police department has received thousands of death threats. The three officers involved are under twenty four seven protective custody.

Yet copyright (and it's not really a right, it's a privilege) lasts 95+ years, keeps getting extended when something is about to enter the public domain, and no one says anything.

I've been to Chili and people there do a better job at protesting and partaking in community discussions (and I'm not saying they don't have bad laws either). The police are afraid of the citizens there. That's how it should be. Unlike here where when we do protest the police and the government and put some fear into them it's always over the wrong things.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207475)

At the very least, businesses will find loopholes in these laws. The most basic one is described in the summary: data is anonymized

What we need is a catchy term or phrase that rhymes with "anonymized" but means not-really-anonymous. If we can put a popular name to this fake anonymization that is the first step in rallying the political and consumer will to stop it.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

psnyder (1326089) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207893)

"pseudo-anonymous data"

Re:No Such Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44208079)

Not very catchy and not very obvious.

Fauxnonymous, maybe.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209261)

At the very least, businesses will find loopholes in these laws. The most basic one is described in the summary: data is anonymized

What we need is a catchy term or phrase that rhymes with "anonymized" but means not-really-anonymous. If we can put a popular name to this fake anonymization that is the first step in rallying the political and consumer will to stop it.

How about "I got sodomized when AT&T only said they would anonymize me. Darn spell check!"

Or "What's the difference from AT&T anonymizing your data and being sodomized? AT&T doesn't use vaseline"

Or "What does AT&T stand for? Always Track This."

Re:No Such Thing (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206835)

In addition to being one of those things that is harder than it looks(which would at least be theoretically solvable with a sufficient supply of comp sci talent), there's the more obvious conflict-of-interest problem: If I'm in the business of selling data, I'm not exactly going to work any harder than strictly required to make my product less valuable to my customers. "Anonymized" is a good word for me to throw in, because it's comforting, legally meaningless, and keeps people off my back; but I have no actual incentive to munge the data in ways that resist re-identifying attacks. In fact, my customers are very likely to prefer that I don't do that.

Re:No Such Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206953)

When corporations and their executives require additional persuasion there is always the time honored technique of doxing them to provide a taste of their own medicine. It's amazing how much more understanding people become of privacy complaints when their information, their spouses information and their children's information are all published in meticulous detail online including home addresses, names, ages, phone numbers, school addresses, workplace addresses and the like. Sometimes you have to show people why privacy is valuable by taking them on a tour of the dark side of ubiquitous information sharing.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

Mitreya (579078) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206959)

Generally, all it takes is a little sleuthing, and all that "anonymous" data becomes anything but.

Not to worry, they probably sell it in bulk and not cheap. So only large and wealthy organizations that are above the law anyway would have your private information.

[sarcasm]Also, maybe AT&T will reduce their customer's bills now that they make extra money on selling their private info?[/sarcasm]

Re:No Such Thing (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207507)

When AOL first released that infamous "sample" data, it took reporters about an hour to start identifying people.

Not big companies. Not wealthy organizations. Some newspaper reporters. Sure, they probably had a couple of programmer friends help. But they didn't hire Hughes Corporation or anything.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207039)

Someone I know was doing some consulting (Business Intelligence) work for a big data mining company (don't remember the name) where all of the data was anonymized.......it didn't take much work for him to find his data. How many people do you know that were born in the same year as you, drives the same car as you, and lives in the same neighborhood as you? Even if that's one or two others, you only need one or two more criteria to single you out (salary range, birth state, marital status, etc.).

So, even if AT&T anonymizes the data, it won't take much effort to identify you.

Re:No Such Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44209193)

If you go for the law, it needs to include all of government as well

Re:No Such Thing (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,21 days | (#44209227)

"The data in question is anonymized, according to AT&T, but it includes very sensitive information such as customers' locations, Web browsing history, mobile app usage and more."

We have known for years now that there is no such thing as "anonymized" data. I found out the other day that somebody actually built a browser for viewing so-called "anonymous" data from the AOL data release some years ago.

Generally, all it takes is a little sleuthing, and all that "anonymous" data becomes anything but.

We need a law. Seriously... if you know me I am not someone who would normally say that. But we need better privacy laws in this country. The Constitutional guarantee of privacy (and yes, before you argue, SCOTUS said it does exist) simply seems to have been falling on deaf ears.

While I agree we need better privacy laws, the law cannot protect what you freely give away. If you know that the cell phone company is tracking this or that FB and Google track stuff and you continue to use those services, then that is not an invasion of privacy as you are willingly allowing it by using those services. Likewise, nobody is required to have a cell phone, so, knowing that the data is being tracked/stored/sold/whatever and you still chose to use a cell phone means that you have given tacit approval to them tracking/storing/selling/whatevering your data.

It is only a privacy issue when they don't tell you about it and don't let you cancel your contract or opt out. I mean really, where do people think Google Maps got all of those street views from?

Re:No Such Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44216865)

I disagree. By your logic, if I tell you I will follow you everywhere you go and you still leave your home to go somewhere, you are tacitly approving of me doing so. You're not "required" to get out of the house, after all.

Thanks, but now if only ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206777)

... I could get Lincoln's buddies to stop reading my telegrams!

anonymous SIM card? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44206781)

Is it possible with any arbitrary smartphone to buy a prepaid anonymous SIM card and use that so that there is no direct tie between the card and a personal identity? Obviously one would still have to be careful not to disclose that in other ways, but it would make their job harder.

Re:anonymous SIM card? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206851)

Is it possible with any arbitrary smartphone to buy a prepaid anonymous SIM card and use that so that there is no direct tie between the card and a personal identity? Obviously one would still have to be careful not to disclose that in other ways, but it would make their job harder.

Any phone that isn't SIM-locked and takes SIMs should theoretically work. It isn't exactly news that all contemporary smartphones dedicate their existence to getting you and your credit card locked into their maker's walled garden, and tend to bleed device-unique data like stuck pigs; but at least you'll be able to pay for the line over which your phone phones home in cash!

How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (3, Informative)

Lendrick (314723) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206795)

You don't think large advertising companies have some automated way of taking a GPS location, converting that to an address, then using public records to look up the owner of the property?

Give me a month of a homeowner's GPS data and access to public records, and I can write a program that will determine exactly who they are with a relatively high degree of certainty.

Re:How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (1)

vettemph (540399) | 1 year,21 days | (#44206919)

This!
And not only that but your commute is as unique as your finger print. You could link an employer address with a home address along with any patents that list both on it and know way to much about a person. The only satisfaction I get from any of this is that I keep my ad blockers on and treat ads like warnings. Don't buy anything that doesn't sell itself.

Re:How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207089)

> look up the owner of the property?

Admittedly I haven't used many phones w/ GPS, but my Android had trouble finding my location with a mile. My iPhone 3G currently shows a blue circle with a diameter of 3.1 miles. Here's a screenshot I just took:

http://upstate.net/jen/iphone_gps.png

There's no way for AT&T or their advertisers to know exactly where I am. They may learn what city, but I have never seen a smart phone that had GPS as accurate as my fifteen year-old dedicated GPS unit. Your fear is overblown.

Re:How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207121)

> a blue circle with a diameter of 3.1 miles.

You need a newer phone. My iPhone 3GS can usually figure-out where I am within 200 meters.

Re:How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | 1 year,21 days | (#44208801)

You need a newer phone. My iPhone 3GS can usually figure-out where I am within 200 meters.

If he wants to protect his privacy, then he doesn't need a newer phone. On the other hand, if he wants to use GPS navigation, then he might. On another hand, for those of us who are polychiral, he appears to live in a populated metropolitan area, so he should probably expect to get reasonably precise GPS data.

Where I live in regional Tasmania, it is not unusual for GPS locations reported by phones to be out by as much as 2km, possibly (I imagine) as a result of satellites being too close to the horizon.

Re:How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (1)

cffrost (885375) | 1 year,15 days | (#44267599)

polychiral

What does this word mean? It's in none of the dictionaries I've tried.

Re:How exactly do you anonymyze location data? (2)

Lendrick (314723) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207325)

My phone GPS doesn't have much trouble zeroing in right on my house.

dic2k (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44207015)

conglomerate in the for trrols'

a really easy way... (0)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,21 days | (#44207959)

Switch carriers.

byteslut AT&T goes for bold ... (1)

noshellswill (598066) | 1 year,21 days | (#44208591)

Removing NEWGROUP access and then CLIENT-SERVER email from subscribers was just a french-kiss from the AT&T bytesluts. Watch their grind-and-bind dryhump action! Well of-course they want to pimp-yo'-tatas --  thieving wireless exchange from the COMMONS being all they wish to support --- so how soon will their monopoly land-lines go dark completely?
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