T-Mobile Automatically Opting Customers In to Expanded Data Collection Program for Targeted Ads
T-Mobile is planning to automatically opt its customers into an advertising program that will see user web and mobile app usage shared with advertisers, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The new advertising policy applies to T-Mobile and Sprint customers. Sprint previously had a similar data sharing partnership with advertisers, but it was only for customers who specifically opted in. The new data sharing program will be the default option, but it will not apply to business accounts or children's lines.
A T-Mobile spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that subscribers want more relevant ads that align with their interests. "We've heard many say they prefer more relevant ads so we're defaulting to this setting," said the spokesperson.
T-Mobile plans to mask user identities to prevent advertisers and other companies from knowing the specific websites they visit or apps they have installed with an encoded user or device ID, but Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Aaron Mackey said that advertisers have ways to link data back to users. "This type of data is very personal and revealing, and it's trivial to link that deidentified info back to you," he said.
T-Mobile's data sharing changes come just as Apple will begin enforcing App Tracking Transparency, a feature that will require app developers to get express user permission before tracking users across apps and websites using the advertising identifier, or IDFA.
App Tracking Transparency is not relevant when it comes to carrier-level data tracking and sharing. Carrier data collection is not new, and AT&T and Verizon both have programs that share user data with advertisers.
AT&T opts wireless subscribers into an ad program that pools them based on inferred interests, with the company sharing more detailed information from customers who opt in. Verizon also pools subscriber data before sharing it with advertisers, plus there's a more extensive data sharing program for users who enroll in Verizon Selects.
T-Mobile customers can opt out of the advertising program through the T-Mobile app or the T-Mobile website. In the app, access the "MORE" tab, select Advertising & Analytics, and toggle off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me."
On the website, choose "My Account," select "Profile, Privacy, and Notifications, then choose Advertising "& Analytics. From there, turn the opt-in toggle off. Sprint users can change the setting through the Sprint website. Select "Visit My Account," choose "Preferences" and then scroll down to "Manage advertising and analytics preferences." From here, turn off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me."