The first program will make reports available to businesses. These will contain anonymous information about groups of customers, such as how they collectively use our products and services. For example, they might tell a retailer about the number of wireless devices in or near their store by time of day, together with anonymous information about those device users’ collective age or gender.
The second program will use local geography as a factor in delivering online and mobile ads to the people who might find them most useful. For instance, if you happen to live in an area where people like going to the movies, you may get ads for movie theaters. This doesn’t mean you’ll get more ads, it just means that the ads you get from AT&T may be more suited to your interests.
An FAQ on the changes provides even more insight on what sorts of reports would be produced with data from customers:
*Reports that combine anonymous U-verse TV viewing behaviors with other aggregate information we may have about our subscribers to create reports that would help a TV network better understand the audiences that are viewing their programs, those that are not, how frequently they watch, when they watch, and other similar information; and
*Reports for device manufacturers that combine information such as device type, make and model with demographic and regional location information to reflect the popularity of particular device types with various customer segments.
AT&T crosses its dead heart and swears that none of the data sold to third parties can be used to identify individual customers.
“When we provide individual anonymous information to businesses, we require that they only use it to provide aggregate reports, and for no other purpose,” writes the company in the FAQ. “We also require businesses to agree they will not attempt to identify any person using this information, and that they will handle it in a secure manner, consistent with this policy.”
AT&T — and other companies that sell anonymous user data — go on and on about how these programs improve the user experience by providing more relevant advertising to the user. But we can state with a high level of confidence that ad-relevance is often the last thing on most consumers’ minds when it comes to their wireless or Internet behavior. In fact, a more common complaint is that advertising is now too targeted; people are creeped out when they get an ad on Facebook for something they just searched for on Google.
Meanwhile, the company has a wide variety of programs you can opt in/out of, and which customers can control via links on this page.