C3PI? CSI? CNN?… or … How cell phone companies are trying to make more on us!

I am an avid listener of Security Now! from the TWiT netcast network. Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corporation has a deep understanding of security down to the basic systems and even components to explain it. If it says anything, they just released their 373rd episode yesterday, October 10, 2012. This past episode was one of his Q&A shows. In it, Russell in London wrote in to explain something that he saw for Verizon Wireless users.1  What Steve explained was how CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information) was going to be sold by Verizon to marketers unless you opt-out in the next 30 days. My reaction was "What? Is this something I need to worry about on another carrier?" The answer is an emphatic "YES" if you care about your privacy.

If we go back to my background, I am not a fan of Google products. The main reason is that they are an advertising company, not some "do no evil to every little thing" company. They are here to sell advertising. To best sell that advertising space to other companies, it needs to know about its audience. That is where the sheep Google users come in. They give Google all the information about themselves that they can. Every search, every e-mail, every bit of documents they write … all of that is congealed to create audience profiles. Then, then can say who the companies buying their advertising is going to market to.

The theory of targeted marketing is a great one. I don’t care to see ads for feminine hygiene products. I also don't care to see ads around baby products. These are two areas I just have no need to see. Give me guns, gadgets and girls. (Reminder: Insert legal clip of Tim Allen doing his monkey grunt here.) The problem is to do the targeted marketing in this current implementation, I need to give all of my information to some company to do that filtering. That means giving all of my information, every little bit, to a company and trusting them to "do no evil". There is an inherit problem with this: companies do what they must to keep their stockholders happy. This basic information about a company is why corporate banks do things differently than a credit union. This is why large corporate ISP's do things differently than the mom and pop ISP down the street.

How does this all relate to this post Jared? Well, cell phone companies saw an opportunity. They have all of our phone, text and mobile internet usage information gathered up to gouge bill us appropriately for our services. Thanks to the keen eyes on Russell in London, it appears at least one is going to try and sell our information to marketing companies. So, they get us coming and going making every piece of profit they can on us, their user. Sound familiar?

If you are one to care about your privacy, here are links to both Verizon's and AT&T's opt-out program for CPNI transfer. If you are on another carrier, do a search in your favorite search engine for the carrier name and "CPNI opt out".

What are your feelings about carriers selling your information? Are you okay with it? What about other companies that you buy services and goods from?


Footnotes:

1 – Question number 5 in Security Now!’s episode 373. Show notes are available at http://wiki.twit.tv/wiki/Security_Now_373