democracy, politics, privacy, technology, tips

Verizon and the Sale of the Customer

According to Verizon’s latest update to their privacy policy, they will now “share” (i.e. sell) lots of information that may make customers uncomfortable. Verizon’s changes to their privacy policy, one must assume the term privacy is being used ironically, includes sharing:

Mobile Usage Information:

  • Addresses of websites you visit when using our wireless service. These data strings (or URLs) may include search terms you have used
  • Location of your device (“Location Information”)
  • App and device feature usage

Consumer Information:

  • Information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features, device type, and amount of use)
  • Demographic and interest categories provided to us by other companies, such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner (“Demographics”)

Verizon is trying to make users feel better about this by quietly offering a opt out and promising that no personally identifiable information is being sent. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean your personal information isn’t being held back, it just means your name, account number, and the like aren’t being sent.

This is the loop-hole that corporations have carved out for themselves in order to commodify customers. Sell everything about the customer, except for their names. It is a good way to make money. Companies like Verizon are charging people to use the service and then having those customers create a product that it can sell. In return for the service the customer provides Verizon the customer gets nothing. Even as this erosion and commodification of privacy becomes common practice these days, there is not much customers can do.

Corporations like Verizon have the upper-hand and can simply place the onus on the customer and the free-market. If you don’t like how they collect data, don’t give them your business. Never mind that the next company will do the same. Never mind that services like internet and cellphones are essential to modern society.

Giving those who oppose regulations the benefit of the doubt, lets say they often miss this important fact— that corporations have only their best interest at heart, and that many (though obviously not all) of their services are not optional. A democratic society should protect its citizen from the corporations which have become micro-oligarchs.

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