Social media sites, web browsers, and smartphone apps aren’t the only ways companies track your data and violate your privacy. Your phone carrier also collects data right from your phone, too. AT&T, T-Mobile (which now owns Sprint and MetroPCS), and Verizon all track your location, web, and app usage, and then use that information to sell ads.
Deceptively, carrier tracking is turned on by default for all users and happens even if you have iOS’s “App Tracking Transparency” or Android’s “Opt-out of Ads Personalization” settings turned on. These settings normally stop apps from phone services collecting certain data, but your carrier tracks you through network activity, not an app, circumventing any on-device do-not-track settings. To be fair, each phone carrier offers their customers a chance to opt-out, but they are so coy about it that most users are probably unaware that they have the option or that data collection is the default behavior, to begin with.
The phone carrier Verizon, for example, sends a boring text message from a random number that looks like a low-rent phishing scam or malware attack, including the exact type of nondescript link customers, are constantly being told not to click on. So what can you as a customer do to stop this type of tracking or phishing on your phone from your service carrier?
According to CNET, here is how AT&T customers can stop the carrier from tracking their data. Customers need to log into your AT&T account from a browser and then go to the control panel where at the bottom, there’s a section called Control How We Use Your Data. Click through each option and toggle “on” or “off” for phone numbers on your account. Each phone number can opt in or out and it will not have an effect on the other phone numbers on your account.
If you are a T-Mobile customer, you can tell the phone carrier to stop tracking your data in one of two ways. The first way is through the T-Mobile mobile app and the second way is through your MyT-Mobile account by either opening the T-Mobile app and signing in to click on my account, then profile, privacy and notifications, and finally advertising and analytics.
If you looking to opt-out of the service provider, Verizon’s tracking of customer data is far more confusing. Verizon has two advertising programs: Customer Experience and Customer Experience Plus. The main difference is Customer Experience Plus tracks a broader range of data, and you have to opt into the Customer Experience Plus program. All Verizon customers are automatically signed up for the Customer Experience program, but they can opt-out and while Verizon doesn’t sell customer data to third-party advertisers, might de-identify or aggregate information so that Verizon or others may use it for business and marketing purposes.
Here’s how Verizon customers can opt to stop the tracking on their devices. First, open the mobile app, log into your account and click the gear icon to open the necessary settings. From there Verizon customers can go under their preferences, click manage privacy settings, and chose the phone line they want to manage under the Verizon phone carrier.
In this day and age, technology can be scary and sometimes feel invasive. It is important to understand the devices you are using and how to remove the tracking based on the phone carrier you utilize.