Last November, in “Your Google Search May Mean More Than You Think,” readers were advised that their Google search terms could be tracked by ISPs to gather highly personal information. Well, now you have to watch what numbers you dial on your telephone as well.

Verizon has been sending out a pamphlet advising customers that they have forty-five days to opt out of allowing Verizon to share their personal information, according to the New York Times and Harvard Law professor David Weinberger. This personal information includes specific calls you make and receive as well as billing and location information. Granted, Verizon promises to those who don’t opt out to share this information only with “affiliates, agents and parent companies,” but who’s to stop third parties from paying to become affiliates? It’s not like Verizon is a small corporation.

Of course there is the obvious question of whether anyone will even read about the opt out opportunity or just recycle it with other junk mail. More important, however, is the need to protect consumer proprietary network information (CPNI) data. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has expressed concern over protecting CPNI data, and may strengthen its rules in the future. For now, however, Verizon’s opt out notice appears to comply with FCC requirements.

While Verizon says that CPNI data will only be used to improve its services and benefit customers, bloggers are saying that this will only lead to customers being inundated with advertisements on their cell phones. Many would argue that this is neither an “improvement” nor a “benefit.”

For Verizon customers like myself who would like to protect their privacy, call 1-800-333-9956 to opt out. Be sure to have your phone number, billing zip code and account password available. There doesn’t appear to be a way of opting out online. Failure to opt out will be considered “consent” to Verizon’s data-sharing policies. If you don’t opt out, be careful who you call. In the future who knows how many targeted advertisements you may receive in response.

— DeNae Thomas

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