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AT&T Joins Verizon, Facebook In Selling Customer Data RT July 7, 2013

AT&T has announced that it will begin selling customers’ smart phone data to the highest bidder, putting the telecommunications giant in line with Verizon, Facebook and other competitors that quietly use a consumer’s history for marketing purposes. The company claims its new privacy policy, to be updated within “the next few weeks,” exists to “deliver more relevant advertising” to users based on which apps they use and their location, which is provided by GPS-tracking. Apparently recognizing the natural privacy concerns a customer might have, AT&T assured the public that all data would be aggregated and made anonymous to prevent individual identification. A letter to customers, for instance, described how someone identified as a movie fan will be sent personalized ads for a nearby cinema. “People who live in a particular geographic area might appear to be very interested in movies, thanks to collective information that shows wireless devices from that area are often located in the vicinity of movie theaters,” the letter states. “We might create a ‘movie’ characteristic for that area, and deliver movie ads to the people who live there.” A June 28 blog post from AT&T’s chief privacy officer Bob Quinn said the new policy will focus on “Providing You Service and Improving Our Network and Services,” but the online reaction has been overwhelmingly negative, with many customers looking for a way to avoid the new conditions.


“You require that we allow you to store a persistent cookie of your choosing in our web browsers to opt out,” one person wrote. “No mention of how other HTTP clients, such as email clients, can opt out. If you really did care about your customers, you would provide a way for us to opt out all traffic to/from our connection and mobile devices in one easy setting.” One problem for any customer hoping for a new service is the lack of options, smartphone or otherwise. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Verizon each store consumer data for purposes that have not yet been made clear. And because of the profit potential that exists when a customer blindly trusts a company with their data, small Internet start-ups, including AirSage and many others, have developed a way to streamline information into dollars. The nefarious aspect of AT&T’s announcement is underscored by the recent headlines around the National Security Agency, which has spent years has compelling wireless corporations to hand over data collected on millions of Americans. Unfortunately for the privacy of those concerned, AT&T’s new policy may only be a sign of things to come. “Instead of merely offering customers a trusted conduit for communication, carriers are coming to see subscribers as sources of data that can be mined for profit, a practice more common among providers of free online services like Google and Facebook,” the Wall Street Journal wrote about the matter in May.

Snowden says Western states ‘in bed with NSA’ AFP July 7, 2013 Fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden said the US National Security Agency operates broad secret spying partnerships with other Western governments now complaining about its programs, in an interview published Sunday. Snowden said in comments made before his exposure of US espionage practices came to light last month and printed in German news weekly Der Spiegel that NSA spies are “in bed together with the Germans and most other Western states”. In remarks published in German, Snowden said an NSA department known as the Foreign Affairs Directorate coordinated work with foreign secret services. Read full article


Edward Snowden Is A Whistleblower, Not A Spy But Do Our Leaders Care? Spencer Ackerman Guardian.co.uk July 7, 2013

According to US legislators and journalists, the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden actively aided America’s enemies. They are just missing one essential element for the meme to take flight: evidence. An op-ed by Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican, Kansas) proclaiming Snowden, who provided disclosed widespread surveillance on phone records and internet communications by the National Security Agency, “not a whistleblower” is indicative of the emerging narrative. Writing in the Wichita Eagle on 30 June Pompeo, a member of the House intelligence committee, wrote that Snowden “has provided intelligence to America’s adversaries“. Pompeo correctly notes in his op-ed that “facts are important”. Yet when asked for the evidence justifying the claim that Snowden gave intelligence to American adversaries, his spokesman, JP Freire, cited Snowden’s leak of NSA documents. Those documents, however, were provided to the Guardian and the Washington Post, not al-Qaeda or North Korea. Read full article

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AT&T Joins Verizon, Facebook In Selling Customer Data