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Doug's Mailbag: Verizon's Snooping

Readers judge whether Verizon's new privacy issue is going too far:

Just read your article and want to add a point of clarification. It appears Verizon's data-harvesting plan does not apply to business accounts. I used the toll-free number provided by Verizon to exclude my cell number. Its automated system told me my line is automatically excluded because it is on a business account. Clearly, this is good for businesses that provide phones to their employees. I agree it sucks for those that are affected.

Will folks using the Verizon cellular network through a discount reseller such as Page Plus be subject to the same Verizon spying?

And, if so, will "opting out" be an easy option for them?

This does cross the line but read the fine print and just about everyone does this.

The PROBLEM is that Congress routinely passes legislation which permits any vendor to change the rules and then requires you to OPT-OUT. Your failure to OPT-OUT is treated as 'implied consent.' Instead, OPT-IN should be required for all changes in terms of service. But then again, Congress (no matter which party is in power) is less interested in consumer protection than it is in protecting the money lobbyists add to the re-election campaigns.

Personally, I have begun to feel like some sort of cranky technophobe (and I have worked in information technology for years). Just because I don't think it is wrong for Verizon to do this doesn't make me or anyone else paranoid.

I don't think that vendors should have any tracking or data gathering as part of their core systems. Makes people doubt the integrity of the vendor. Likewise, if people are willing to participate in such data gathering for say, some small discount on their bill, then they can download an extra application to do all of the reporting and whatever. The application should or at least could provide the user to turn off certain bits as they see fit.

It is time to turn the mentality back to 'The customer is always right' and away from the current 'Milk the customer cow for all they are worth.' True capitalism only works when the customer is first.

If you dig into iOS 5's installation you will see a similar sneaky project. When you upgrade you'll notice it has a new hidden option called 'iADs,' which is essentially targeted advertising. All these companies need to make profits, but the question is at what expense? I see a huge class actions coming soon since many users aren't technical enough to know what to disable on their phones. They eventually will exceed their data caps as a result. Might make a good article...

As for the Verizon's mess, I suggest you write an article informing users they now have an option to drop Verizon at no cost. The TOS change allows the phone user to drop any existing contract at no cost since Verizon initiated the contractual change.

This might make Verizon think twice!

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Posted by Doug Barney on 10/21/2011 at 1:18 PM


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