Verizon Collecting Browsing Data On Users

Originally published at: Verizon Collecting Browsing Data On Users - TidBITS

If you’re a Verizon customer, the company has likely already enrolled you in its new “Custom Experience” data-collection scheme, but you can turn it off and delete the collected data.

1 Like

Catch 22. I have Verizon Fios (which is great) but I do not have a Verizon mobile account. I can sign on to the Verizon website but I cannot find any ‘Customer Experience’ settings there. I can download the My Verizon app on my (ATT) iPhone but it won’t let me log in without a Verizon mobile account.
I am retired but managed programmers for much of my career and not one of them was this stupid.

It may not apply to Fios. Verizon used to have a clear distinction between Verizon Wireless and Verizon Fios, but it’s all Verizon now.

Thank you!
Let me ask a question. Suppose Verizon Fios is just as tricky as wireless and is collecting this data. I use 1.1.1.1 as my DNS and I also run through a VPN, is my browsing data still visible to Verizon?

It’s not visible to Verizon if you’re using a VPN (presumably encrypted). However, your VPN can see your browsing history, which may be better or worse.

From what I’ve read the VPN does not keep logs so it’s at least as safe as Verizon, which isn’t saying much!
I know that one of Steve Gibson’s mottos is Trust No One but I’m not in Steve’s class so I have to trust someone.

I’m in the same situation – Fios but not a mobile customer of theirs. The online discussions of this privacy issue that I’ve seen don’t make this Fios/mobile distinction, unfortunately.

Unlike you, I don’t use a VPN: maybe I’m too cynical, but I’m guessing that VPNs, TOR, etc. make you a “person of interest” who’s more likely to get spied on, not less. OTOH, I realize that my approach relies on “security through obscurity”, which is deprecated by most of my geekish compatriots.

In any event, if anybody finds out whether this nastiness applies to Fios-only customers, and if so whether there’s anything we can do about, please let us know!

I’ve searched the MyVerizon (wireless) app as well as the website and there is no place to set such preferences. Verizon’s own instructions are outdated as there are no sections such that they refer to in their instructions. There is no “Manage Privacy Settings pane” anywhere. I’ve searched all available prefs and settings in my Verizon Wireless account and there is no place to opt out of anything of the sort.

I just changed our settings, based on the article. I had to click around the Verizon account dashboard to find the right settings …

The “Custom Experience” and “Plus” settings will be at the bottom.

Hope this helps.

What are the downsides to turning it off?

Please let us know if you have had some sort of trouble later…

The downside is that Verizon won’t be providing you with customized advertising and promotions. You’ll only see the generic non-targeted ones.

It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to let Verizon track your activity in exchange for this.

The link in the original article to T-Mobile’s privacy settings page isn’t working currently, at least that’s the case for me. I tried logging into the website directly and manually navigating to the tools but that also failed. :man_shrugging:t2:

Curious—the T-Mobile link worked for me.

https://www.t-mobile.com/privacy-center/take-control-of-your-data

Then I clicked the pink Update Settings box, clicked T-Mobile when asked which service, signed into my T-Mobile account, and ended up here:

https://www.t-mobile.com/account/profile/privacy_notifications/advertising

Brave Browser 2021-12-21 at 12.01.55

I shut this down on 4 phone lines over a week ago.
No downside that any of us see…except stopping an invasion of our privacy.

Rich

We followed the instructions near the bottom of the original article and clicked the gear at the upper right in the My Verizon app to get to ‘Manage privacy settings’.

Adam, today the T-Mobile llink worked for me also. This time I used Safari on a laptop… I was on a fully updated iPad 6th Gen. for the previous attempt. Most likely it was a local network issue or a temporary T-Mobile glitch. In any case, the problem was NOT the link.

I’m not sure there will be a downside. As @Shamino said, the upside is some increase in privacy. (Tho’ I don’t believe for a second that Verizon isn’t tracking usage for various purposes even with this change. This just minimizes advertising, which is no small thing.)

I’ll be sure to report if a downside does appear.

Turning off tracking, like blocking trackers in web browsers, will not reduce the amount of ads you see. It will prevent the server from choosing ads tailored to what it thinks you are more likely to buy (based on your browsing history).

For example, let’s say you spend 90% of your browsing time looking at Apple products. With tracking enabled, you will probably see a disproportionately large number of ads for Apple products and products designed to work with Apple products. Without tracking, you will see just as many ads, but they will be (more or less) random, because the server won’t have information about what you like.

Of course, the ad serving isn’t really a big concern. If I could somehow be convinced that tracking my browsing habits would only be used for targeting ads, I’d probably like it. I’d rather see ads for things I like than for things I don’t care about.

The point of concern is that we have no way of knowing what else they may use that data for. And nobody ever discloses those usages until some whistle-blower leaks it to the rest of the world.

And you have no assurance other than “trust me” that when you check the box to disable tracking that it actually will disable tracking. If they keep tracking you and simply stop generating targeted ads, you would have no way of knowing the difference (until someone leaks it to the press).

So you have to decide their trustworthiness based on past history and hope you guess right. Based on past scandals, I will never believe Google or Facebook. I currently believe Apple and Verizon because I haven’t seen evidence of them having violated their privacy policies in the past. But I am always aware of the fact that policies can change in the future, so its always important to pay attention to the news.

1 Like