– Verizon Wireless Now Collecting Your Web, Location, App Data (PC Magazine, Oct. 13, 2011):
For the last month, Verizon Wireless has been notifying customers through email of a major change to its default privacy setting: it will begin collecting your Web browsing history, cell phone location and app usage, for third-party marketing purposes.
You can opt out of such surveillance, although Verizon has promised not to share any identifiable information with these third-party companies.
If you stay opted in, you’ll eventually start seeing more personalized ads while surfing on your mobile devices, or even when using Verizon FiOS Internet, DSL, or other dial-up services, said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson.
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) — Verizon Communications Inc., coping with subscriber losses at its fixed-line phone business, plans to cut about 13,000 jobs at the division this year after posting fourth-quarter revenue that missed analysts’ estimates.
The cuts will follow reductions of a similar size last year, Chief Financial Officer John Killian said on a conference call today. This year’s eliminations equal to 11 percent of the staff at the unit, which had about 117,000 workers at year-end.
Sales rose 9.9 percent to $27.1 billion, missing the $27.3 billion average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Fixed-line revenue fell 3.9 percent, muting mobile-customer gains that beat some analysts’ projections. High unemployment hurt sales to companies and damped growth at Verizon’s FiOS Internet and TV service, said Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Christopher King.
“The economy, first and foremost, we really see no signs of improvement there,” said Baltimore-based King, who advises investors to buy the shares and doesn’t own any. “I would have expected to see a little bit more signs of stabilization in the fourth quarter.” Continue reading »
A little-noticed letter from Yahoo! to the US Marshals Service offers troubling insight into the surveillance policies of one of the Internet’s largest email providers.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking details of Yahoo’s! policies allowing the Justice Department to request wiretaps of its users and the amount they charge US taxpayers per wiretap — the search engine leviathan declared in a 12-page letter that they couldn’t provide information on their approach because their pricing scheme would “shock” customers. The news was first reported by Kim Zetter at Wired.
“It is reasonable to assume from these comments that the [pricing] information, if disclosed, would be used to “shame” Yahoo! and other companies — and to “shock” their customers,” a lawyer for the company writes. “Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies.”
Yahoo! also argues that because their price sheet for wiretaps was “voluntarily submitted” to the US Marshals Service, it is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act law.
Verizon, meanwhile, says (letter PDF) they can’t provide details on how much they charge for wiretaps because it would be “confusing.”
“Customers may see a listing of records, information or assistance that is available only to law enforcement,” Verizon writes, “but call in to Verizon and seek those same services. Such calls would stretch limited resources, especially those that are reserved only for law enforcement emergencies.”
Consumers might “become unnecessarily afraid that their lines have been tapped or call Verizon to ask if their lines are tapped (a question we cannot answer),” the telecom giant adds.
Verizon also revealed it “receives tens of thousands of requests for customer records, or other customer information from law enforcement.”
Fine print reveals that you have fewer rights than you might realize
The Comcast case is a rare example of the government getting into the ISP contract nitty-gritty. “There really should be an onus on the regulators to see this kind of thing is done correctly,” said Bob Williams, who deals with telecom and media issues at Consumers Union.
NEW YORK – What’s scary, funny and boring at the same time? It could be a bad horror movie. Or it could be the fine print on your Internet service provider’s contract.
Those documents you agree to — usually without reading — ostensibly allow your ISP to watch how you use the Internet, read your e-mail or keep you from visiting sites it deems inappropriate. Some reserve the right to block traffic and, for any reason, cut off a service that many users now find essential.
The Associated Press reviewed the “Acceptable Use Policies” and “Terms of Service” of the nation’s 10 largest ISPs — in all, 117 pages of contracts that leave few rights for subscribers.
“The network is asserting almost complete control of the users’ ability to use their network as a gateway to the Internet,” said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. “They become gatekeepers rather than gateways.”
The National Security Agency was once known for its skill in eavesdropping on the world’s telephone calls through radio dishes in out-of-the-way places like England’s Menwith Hill, Australia’s Pine Gap, and Washington state’s Yakima Training Center.
Today those massive installations, which listened in on phone conversations beamed over microwave links, are becoming something akin to relics of the Cold War. As more communications traffic travels through fiber links, and as e-mail and text messaging supplant phone calls, the spy agency that once intercepted telegrams is adapting yet again. Continue reading »
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