So what happened?
Well, AT&T bought a tiny company (DirecTV) for a modest $49-billion last month.
And that means??
They have access to even more users’ data than before, it’s now more difficult for users to opt-out of marketing pitches from the company, and the forthcoming changes haven’t been as public as we’d like.
Okay, hit me with the deets.
Like most tech and telecom companies, AT&T monitors users’ online behavior to target ads that customers might be interested in. Click history, etc. We’ve heard of that.
Kind of annoying, right?
And opting out once isn’t enough. If you’re fancy (as most of us are) and switch up your internet browser every now and then, you have to opt out from every browser you’ve ever used. On every device you use.
So if you use three different browsers on three different devices (say a laptop, tablet, and smartphone), that means you are going to have to opt out 189 times and never delete your cookies so it stays that way.
Exhaust me, why don’t you?!
I have 22 tabs open on my current browser and that’s a tad out of control. I definitely don’t want to upgrade to 189 tabs.
The main bone we have to pick with AT&T:
AT&T says they are being consistent with industry practice, and that may be so, but transparency of their terms is nonexistent.
I am an AT&T customer, and I haven’t heard about this update. Yeah, I’m one person, but if I haven’t been notified and I pay for, and use AT&T’s through my mobile devices, and wifi on the daily, there’s definitely some sharing that needs to be going on that isn’t.
As Jill Bronfman, director of the Privacy and Technology Project at UC Hastings College of the Law, said, "The letter of the law may allow them to do things as they are now," said, but the spirit of the law is that they need to offer consumer-friendly privacy options."
The default shouldn’t be that customers have to opt out from every place their data is shared. Rather, the default should be that no data sharing or tracking is allowed without people’s permission. What is wrong with having some people say, “Hey sure share my info!” and having others who say, “Oh, no way!” And still keeping them both as customers?
Unfortunately, we sometimes agree to these things by checking yes or moving forward to a site through a clickwrap or browsewrap agreement that sucks. That doesn’t mean we always realize what we are agreeing to though, which is why this is even more important.
1. Plain and simple language
2. Notifications when there are changes
3. Complete transparency with customers
Right now, AT&T may be “Mobilizing Your World,” but they’re demobilizing your right to weigh in on certain privacy policies.