The recent power move of Verizon acquiring AOL — one of a few major moves in the telecom industry — is now producing consequences for data privacy hawks and Verizon’s advertising coffers. And whether or not Verizon Wireless customers know it or like it, they’re all involved in the process.
The AOL Advertising Network, which collects information from traffic from its sites and other vendors using AOL’s services, is merging with Verizon’s ad services.
Here’s what Verizon and AOL are already gathering:
- postal address
- email address
- very specific parameters about your “mobile web browsing, app and feature usage and location of your device”
- other information about what Verizon products and services you use and how
- data from third-party providers (“gender, age range, and interests”)
The way Verizon tracks right now is with a supercookie tracker it attaches to all the internet interfaces you use, barring encrypted sites (like your online banking account).
That’s a ton of data from the most popular wireless carrier in the US. Data that, privacy advocate group Access asserts, is not encrypted when it’s being transmitted and can be very easily intercepted by parties not in Verizon and AOL’s ad network. Furthermore, it’s an opt-out program: that means Verizon subscribers are being tracked unless they say they don’t want to.
If you’re a Verizon customer and want to opt out, check your privacy settings on your MyVerizon page. A phone number is available for you to call at the Verizon link below.
Just a note that with this ad services merger comes a wider net for Verizon to cast and more unencrypted data that you may send — and possibly get stolen.
Full disclosure: Verizon — formerly AOL — is the parent company of Engadget