Image: Flipboard

Verizon tries to defend collecting browsing data on its network

Image: Flipboard

Following complaints that it was switched on by default for certain users, Verizon has issued an email to subscribers informing them that they are being opted in to its Custom Experience data collecting plan.

If you (understandably) deleted the email without reading it, the short version is that Verizon’s programme collects data on your apps and web surfing activities in order to “present you with more tailored Verizon experiences.”

Of course, you have a choice, according to Verizon, and you can turn it off at any moment because your privacy is vital to them (though not important enough to make the programme opt-in instead of opt-out).

Custom Experience is a spin-off, successor, or rebrand of Verizon Selects, which consumers were automatically registered in when they utilised the Verizon Up rewards programme. Verizon Selects has been renamed Custom Experience Plus, and most customers who don’t actively opt out are getting the Custom Experience with a few tracking limitations.

Verizon is informing users about the initiative via emails, such as this one received by a member of The Verge’s staff, and texts, such as this one received by a reader. The email claims that “you’re in control,” and that you have 30 days to opt out before the Custom Experience is activated for your line.

If you do nothing, Verizon will most likely use your information to “personalise [its] contacts with you, provide you with more relevant product and service suggestions, and build plans, services, and offers that are more enticing to you.”

“Consumer and small business customers with smartphone lines are covered in the Custom Experience programme,” according to the program’s FAQ. It does mention that the scheme excludes corporate and government lines, as well as lines for minors and residents of Maine.

What Verizon is doing here has two levels: Custom Experience, which is the automatic enrollment option, and Custom Experience Plus, which is significantly more intrusive but ostensibly opt-in. However, it appears that some customers have unintentionally signed up for Custom Experience Plus while participating in other incentive schemes.

Verizon claims that Plus gets location data directly from its network (so turning off location tracking on your phone won’t help), as well as metadata about your phone conversations, such as who you contact and when you call them.

The entire instructions for turning off Custom Experience and erasing the data it collects on you can be found here, but the short version is that it can be done via the My Verizon app’s “Manage privacy settings” option pane (or the web). Verizon claims that it does not sell Custom Experience data to advertising and that it is only for Verizon’s use.