Cellular Providers Partner With Data–An Invasion of Privacy?

cellphonesI finally found time this week to sit down and read the latest issue of Adage, which was centered around two of my favorite things: Digital and Data.  An article titled The $24 Billion Data Business That Telcos Don’t Want to Talk About caught my attention and left me pondering for the remainder of the week–Is this ethical?  Is it an invasion of privacy?  Is Big Data at risk of taking it too far?

While many may say marketers are already invading our privacy by using tools such as our digital footprint to market to us, our digital footprint contains a great deal of information that we choose to share with the world or that we know is being captured and shared.  We expect that data gathered from our cell phone during web surfing and purchasing is shared, but just how much are our cell phone providers sharing with data and marketing companies?  The answer is likely more than we know and more the we knew we agreed to.

So what are providers such as Verizon, Sprint, Telefonica and other carriers testing with firms such as SAP, IBM, HP and Airsage?  Everything.  Our providers are willing to share things such as where we live and where we go after we leave the store. You may have figured they may have already been sharing that, but what about the more personal interactions youcell_dont_spy depend on your phone for…Things such as texting and phone calls?  They will be sharing that too.

Are you uncomfortable yet?  Wondering how your cell phone provider is able to release this information or if you will be receiving something in the mail to sign to allow your provider to release your information?  You won’t get it.  You already signed it…It is all legal because you signed a terms and conditions contract that gave your provider permission somewhere in the tiny print.

With all of this said, it is important to note that SAP only receives non-personally identifiable, anonymized information from telcos.  SAP then only releases aggregated information to its clients.  However, concerns still arise since a little hacking and algorithm work could easily connect the information back to the household.

Concerns raised from this new data practice range from consumer privacy to the availability of information that will be at the fingertips of hackers.  They will not only have access to your age, where you live and where you shop, but they could potentially have access to your interests, your activities and your conversations.  As a person who loves the new technology and the data that has forever changed the marketing world, I do believe there are limits as to what should and should not be shared.  This new sharing is something to keep a close eye on in the coming months.

The below video is a “food for thought” video discussing big data and privacy.  Have our cellular providers gotten to the point of being “creepy” as the video describes?

Liked that?  Want to learn more about cell phone privacy?

Here’s How Others Can Easily Snoop on Your Cell Phone

Verizon’s Privacy Policy

AT&T Allows Consumers to Opt-Out of Sharing Information with Advertisers

5 thoughts on “Cellular Providers Partner With Data–An Invasion of Privacy?

  1. Hi Bridget,

    As a consumer, I have my concerns about an invasion of privacy from companies I didn’t knowingly agree to share my data with. However as a marketer I believe this free flow of big data is an invaluable source of info which helps to better target our strategies. While I am torn on the subject, I do believe that there should be some limit or regulation that acts as a safeguard for consumers. I’d prefer that my name, as well as the name of my contacts, are never shared or linked to the data collected to me. From a marketer’s point-of-view, I’d agree with this notion as I am primarily looking for demographic and psychographic info which would benefit more than knowing a person’s name.

    As technology advances, I do not see an end of buying and selling of big data although I hope that regulations can be enforced and limits are set to truly protect the consumer’s privacy.


    1. Hi Sarim.

      Thank you for your response. I have to agree that the data available is invaluable from a marketing standpoint. I work in variable data marketing and love how personalized marketing has taken off. I do believe that there should be a limit or consumers should at least know exactly what is being shared so they can be mindful when sending texts etc.

      Where would you draw the line? How personal is too personal?


  2. Great post! I agree that most of the data being collected for marketing purposes is harmless – and often helpful in delivering that personal, relevant content we crave. What concerns me are the numerous data brokers that collect, analyze, package and sell some of our most sensitive personal information, such as info pertaining to health conditions. This is an area that should be regulated by the government. Do you think there will be a time when the government will step in?


    1. I believe that all depends on the consumer really. If consumers want more personalized offers and marketing, I believe giving up their privacy will be a large part of that. If they find a tipping point, which is more likely the case, government will have to step in to place regulations on cellular providers or demand permissions be agreed upon by the consumer.


  3. It definitely is cause for concern! Many individuals have no idea what they are even agreeing to when they blindly click accept on “terms and conditions” pages. There’s also a part of me that thinks, “okay, who cares?” It’s not like I’m trying to be super secretive about what products I’m buying or what my interests are. My biggest concern with sharing my every step is the fact that someone knows that I’m not at home, so they could break into my house if they wanted to. Thank goodness for alarm systems. 🙂

    Are you in the “who cares?” camp with me?


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