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    CNN: Your phone company is selling your personal data

    CNN reports on policies that affect the privacy of cellphone customers’ data:

    Your phone company knows where you live, what websites you visit, what apps you download, what videos you like to watch, and even where you are. Now, some have begun selling that valuable information to the highest bidder.

    In mid-October, Verizon Wireless changed its privacy policy to allow the company to record customers’ location data and Web browsing history, combine it with other personal information like age and gender, aggregate it with millions of other customers’ data, and sell it on an anonymous basis.

    That kind of data could be very useful — and lucrative — to third-party companies. For instance, if a small business owner wanted to figure out the best place to open a new pet store, the owner could buy a marketing report from Verizon about a designated area. The report might reveal which city blocks get the most foot or car traffic from people whose Web browsing history reveals that they own pets. […]

    All four national carriers use aggregated customer information to help outside parties target ads to their subscribers. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile insist that subscriber data is never actually handed over to third-party vendors; nevertheless, they all make money on it. […]

    Sprint (S, Fortune 500), like Verizon, tracks the kinds of websites a customer visits on their mobile devices as well as what applications they use, according to spokesman Jason Gertzen. Sprint uses that data to help third parties target ads to customers. […]

    But the rise of smartphones has given mobile providers an accidental treasure trove of marketable data: The gadgets are hyper-personalized tracking devices that “know” more about their owners than any other product on the market.

    Wireless providers are taking advantage of their gold mine.

    “At the end of the day, we’re getting to a situation where customers are the products that these wireless companies are selling,” said Nasir Memon, a professor of computer science at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. “They’re creating a playground to attract people and sell them to advertisers. People are their new business.”

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