Phone carriers want to get into the mobile ad delivery business, using what they know about their smartphone-addicted customers to profile them for advertisers to deliver on-the-nose, or rather on-the-finger, ads. Researchers recently took a close look at the privacy toll of carriers Verizon and AT&TAT&T rolling this out: they’re tagging their customers with unique codes that are visible to third parties, making smartphone users far easier to track on the Web than they’ve ever been before. You can see if your smartphone is leaking a unique code on this site. After the findings by researchers, AT&T admitted it’s “testing” a new way of tracking its customers for ad display purposes.
“There’s nothing ready to announce,” said AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel. “We’re still testing.”
But that means, yes, AT&T customers are being tagged by AT&T in a way that’s visible to the websites they visit, but AT&T says it’s building in what it considers to be a privacy-protective measure: the unique code for each user will change every 24 hours. Siegel says this is happening now, but Kenneth White, one of the researchers who discovered the tracking, says that is “categorically untrue,” saying he found three identifying codes being sent by AT&T that were persistent.
“AT&T does not currently have a mobile Relevant Advertising program. We are considering such a program, and any program we would offer would maintain our fundamental commitment to customer privacy,” read a statement from AT&T. “For instance, we are testing a numeric code that changes every 24 hours on mobile devices to use in programs where we serve ads to the mobile device. This daily rotation on the numeric code would help protect the privacy of our customers. Customers also could opt out of any future AT&T program that might use this numeric code.”
Siegel declined to say how long the test had been running, saying only that it had been “a little while.”
Siegel calls what Verizon is doing “similar.” But says that AT&T would not include the unique identifier in IP packets for customers who opted out. According to reports, Verizon customers who opted out of tracking are still seeing a unique tracking code inserted into the urls for the websites they visit.
“If you opt out, we won’t send you ads and won’t add the code,” said Siegel. He says AT&T customers can opt out of being tagged during the testing through this process:
- From your AT&T mobile device you want to opt out, go to http://126.96.36.199/mobileoptout/
- Make sure you are on the AT&T wireless network, and not on any Wi-Fi.
- Choose the blue Opt-Out button. You should receive the following message: “Thank you. This device will not be receiving AT&T AdWorks Relevant Advertising.”
Provided from: Forbes.