Privacy Poison

You might want to opt out of T-Mobile's new data-sharing program right away

“T-Mobile will begin a new program that uses some data we have about you, including information we learn from your web and device usage data (like the apps installed on your device) [...] for our own and third-party advertising, unless you tell us not to.”

T-Mobile

In this photo illustration a T Mobile logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Starting April 26, T-Mobile will sell your web usage data to advertisers so they can target you with even more personal ads. Anticipating backlash for setting up a privacy hellhole for users, the company has reassured the public that you can opt out of the data sale if you want.

According to Ars Technica, the company stated in a privacy notice: "T-Mobile will begin a new program that uses some data we have about you, including information we learn from your web and device usage data (like the apps installed on your device) and interactions with our products and services for our own and third-party advertising, unless you tell us not to. When we share this information with third parties, it is not tied to your name or information that directly identifies you." Privacy analysts, however, strongly doubt that.

What you should know — The data involves your visits to sports, music, entertainment, cosmetics, clothing, and other websites, the information for which is then used to create advertiser IDs. T-Mobile already tracks device and cookie IDs and gives that information to advertising groups to target you with ads, as it states in its “data marketing and sharing” page. But now it plans to get even more aggressive about this business.

From the time you've spent on a particular app to the features you used, the data around this highly personal experience alongside the "demographic information" based on your location, age, type of household, what your education level is, and other details will reach ad groups come spring.

What you can do — Of course, this sounds like a privacy nightmare. While T-Mobile says that users will have the autonomy to opt out, adding that your data will be de-identified to protect your privacy, Ars Technica notes that privacy analysts worry such information can still easily be linked back to individual users. This can be done by simply studying data sets and virtual footprints obvious through web usage data. So while T-Mobile might try to win you over by claiming that it uses "advertising identifiers" and "unique identifiers," you're better off opting out of this program that takes effect in April.

If you're a T-Mobile, Sprint, or Metro by T-Mobile user, the company has three separate links for users to submit their own requests to be removed from the program. You should also update your privacy settings and if you're based in the United States, you can also submit a personal data deletion request, which requires the company to remove "certain data" about you. T-Mobile doesn’t specify what this “certain data” is but it presumably includes your cookie, ad, and device information.