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US carrier tracking customers’ smartphones

AT&T and Verizon customers in the United States may be a little upset today, following a report which shows that their mobile service providers are using a unique tracking system to allow advertisers to push content to their phones.

Devices are tagged with a code which is visible to third parties and although Mark Siegel of AT&T insists that these codes change every 24 hours to protect the privacy of customers, one of the researchers has stated that this is “categorically untrue”.

Siegel added: “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. 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 comment on how long the company had been tracking devices, offering only that they’d been running the scheme for “a little while.”

Users are able to opt out of the Relevant Advertising by entering a specific URL onto their device’s browser whilst connected to the internet, but there’s no confirmation that this will actually stop the tracking from happening, just that you won’t receive ads.

According to Siegel, Verizon is piloting a ‘similar’ scheme although Verizon customers are reporting that they’re still seeing the tracking codes in URLs, even after they’ve opted out.

How do you feel about having your information profiled for advertising? Let us know.