With money on its mind, AT&T may start selling anonymous user data

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Your privacy matters, as long as it's making AT&T money

It's no secret that a wide variety of mobile and web companies are collecting data on the things you view, places you visit and items you purchase online.

Whether its Facebook opting to share your information with advertisers so it can better flood your profile with relevant ads, or Google following your search habits to prompt timely AdSense promotions, almost everything you do is tracked, collected, analyzed and then reported (mostly) anonymously to partners to provide revenue.

Now, it appears AT&T is joining cellular competitor Verizon in sharing its customer information with outside businesses in an effort to make more money.

Privacy is profitable

For what it's worth, the major difference between the two is AT&T's wired and wireless branches are fully integrated under one banner, while Verizon Wireless tends to operate exclusively from Verizon proper.

Based on recently released privacy policy amendments, AT&T's plans appear to combine the collective wireless, U-Verse TV service and Wi-Fi usage data of its consumers for use in analytic reports it intends to sell.

In its statement, the company detailed a few different ways user data would be collected, and how it could be used by potential partners.

"AT&T may provide reports to advertisers and other business customers about the success of its advertising campaigns," the company stated.

"Those reports contain aggregate information about the number of times a particular ad was viewed, when it was viewed, whether it was viewed on a TV, a mobile device or a computer, demographics associated with the viewing audience and other similar information."

AT&T also made it very clear users could opt out of such services, though there are multiple ways the company collects the data, and users will have to request to be removed from each individually.


Ma Bell has its eye on you

Additionally, most of all the information gathered is compiled into an aggregate, meaning specific personal information cannot be shared with partners, and the data is representative of a larger group.

There are rare instances where AT&T claimed individual data would be recorded, however, again the company promised anonymity would be paramount.

"When we provide individual anonymous information to businesses, we require that they only use it to provide aggregate reports, and for no other purpose," AT&T explained.

"We also require businesses to agree they will not attempt to identify any person using this information, and that they will handle it in a secure manner, consistent with this policy."

What's yours is theirs

The change in policy arrives at a time when consumers are skeptical of their data being shared, thanks in large part to recent revelations about the U.S. government's Prism program.

In June, the Federal Communications Commission ruled carriers needed to protect customer proprietary network information (CPNI) stored on mobile device. However, that didn't stop the National Security Agency from collecting very similar data under Prism.

AT&T's new policies are in a 30-day trial period right now, as the company is searching for feedback from its users on the changes.

We asked AT&T for more details on the policies and how they'll be implemented, and will update this story if and when we hear back.

Via Fierce Wireless