Verizon tries to defend collecting browsing data on its network

Verizon has sent an email to customers to let them know they’re getting opted in to its Custom Experience data collection scheme after reports came out about it being turned on by default for some users. If you (understandably) trashed the email without reading it, the TL;DR is that Verizon’s program collects data about your apps and web browsing activity to help “provide you more personalized experiences with Verizon.” But of course, Verizon says, you have a choice — you can turn it off anytime because your privacy is important to it (though not important enough to make the program opt-in instead of opt-out).

Custom Experience is a sort of spin-off / successor / rebrand of Verizon Selects, which people were enrolled into when they used the Verizon Up rewards program. Verizon Selects has now been rebranded as Custom Experience Plus, while the Custom Experience with a few limits on tracking is rolling out to most customers who don’t actively opt out.

Verizon is letting its customers know about the program through emails, like one a member of The Verge’s staff received, and texts like this one a reader says they got. The email promises that “you’re in control,” saying that you can opt out within the next 30 days before the Custom Experience is turned on for your line.

Doing nothing, however, will likely end with Verizon using your data to “personalize [its] communications with you, give you more relevant product and service recommendations, and develop plans, services and offers that are more appealing to you.” The company’s FAQ for the program says that “consumer and small business customers with smartphone lines are included in the Custom Experience program.” It does note that corporate and government lines, as well as lines for children and people in Maine, aren’t included in the program.

As we note in our explainer, there are actually two levels to what Verizon is doing here — Custom Experience, which is the automatic enrollment one, and Custom Experience Plus, which is much more invasive but supposedly is opt-in. However, it does seem like people have found that they’ve inadvertently signed up for Custom Experience Plus while using other rewards programs. Verizon says with Plus, it collects location data straight from its network (so turning off location tracking on your phone won’t help), as well as metadata about your phone calls like who you talk to and when you talk to them.

You can read the full instructions on how to turn off Custom Experience and erase the data it’s collected on you here, but the short version is that it can be done in the “Manage privacy settings” preference pane of the My Verizon app (or the web). Verizon says that it doesn’t sell the data from Custom Experience to advertisers and that it’s for Verizon’s use only. One reader reported that Verizon even sent an alert that linked users to a page explaining how Verizon uses the personal data you provide when you sign up for its service.

Source: The Verge

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