Verizon overrides user opt-out preferences when pressing to collect browsing history

A Verizon logo.

Verizon automatically enrolls customers in a new version of a program that scans the browsing histories of mobile users, even when those same users previously opted out of the program when it had a different name.

The carrier announced changes to its “Verizon Selects” program along with a new name a few days ago. “Verizon Custom Experience Plus is the new name for our Verizon Selects program,” Verizon said in a Frequently asked questions. Verizon is ignoring opt-out preferences for at least some customers by enrolling them in “Personalized Experience,” which collects browser and app usage history, but does not use device location data and other personal information collected in “Experience. Custom Plus “. “

Verizon says it does not sell the information collected in either version of Custom Experience and that the program “no longer supports third-party advertising.” But Verizon shares the data with “service providers who work for us” and says it uses the data to “personalize our communications with you, provide you with more relevant product and service recommendations, and develop plans, services and offers that are more attractive to you. For example, if we think you like music, we may present you with a Verizon offer that includes music content or provide you with a concert-related option in our Verizon Up rewards program. “

How to opt out (again)

Privacy-conscious users will likely want to opt out by following the instructions provided by Verizon or in this article. To opt out, go to your Verizon account privacy preferences page. Scroll down a bit and you will see options to “Manage Settings” for both Custom Experience and Custom Experience Plus. You can also try this link to go directly to the Personalized Experience settings, or you can select “Manage Privacy Settings” in the “My Verizon” mobile app.

On the website or mobile app, the options to manage settings will allow you to choose whether or not to participate in both versions of the Personalized Experience program. You can also delete any browsing history and location data that Verizon has previously collected by clicking “Reset.” Additionally, account owners can use the Verizon website to block Personalized Experience enrollment for specific phone lines.

Verizon customers have good reason to be suspicious of the operator’s privacy practices. The Federal Communications Commission last year found that “Verizon apparently disclosed its customers’ location information, without their consent, to a third party who was not authorized to receive it.” The commission proposed a fine of $ 48 million. In 2016, Verizon agreed to pay a $ 1.35 million fine for inserting “supercookie” identifiers into customers ‘mobile Internet traffic without users’ knowledge or consent.

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress blocked the implementation of the FCC’s privacy rules that would have required home Internet and mobile broadband providers to obtain consumer consent before use, share or sell the history of the browser, the application. -use history and other private information.

Did you choose not to participate? “You will still be included”

Verizon has been emailing customers notifying them of changes to the program. There are different versions of the email, one of which states that Verizon ignores previous opt-out preferences in cases where people “recently opted out.” That email, which was forwarded to Ars by a Verizon customer, says:

As a Verizon Selects participant, you will automatically be included in the Custom Experience Plus and Custom Experience programs.

If you recently opted out of Verizon Selects, you will continue to be included in the Personalized Experience program unless you choose not to participate.

The email from Verizon did not indicate a specific time period for the phrase “recently canceled.” We reached out to Verizon today and asked for that detail and asked why Verizon enrolls people who previously opted out of the same program before the program was renamed. We will update this article if we get any responses.

the Verizon Frequently Asked Questions It does not include the “recently opt-out” language and instead makes it appear that all customers can be enrolled in the Personalized Experience (the non-Plus version) regardless of previous opt-out status:

You will be part of the Personalized Experience program unless you choose not to participate. You can opt out by using the privacy preferences page on the My Verizon site or the privacy settings page within the My Verizon app.

You must opt ​​for the Custom Experience Plus program to be a part of it, unless you are already participating in Verizon Selects. Verizon Selects participants will automatically be included in the renamed program.

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