Verizon's Claims That Its Info-Sharing Plans Are Harmless Ring Hollow

from the that-which-is-made-not-immediately-full-of-clarity dept

Over the weekend, David Weinberger, one of the co-authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto wrote that he'd gotten a 45-page pamphlet of legalese from Verizon Wireless saying he could opt out of letting the company share "Customer Proprietary Network Information" with other groups. The rather broadly worded statement, which said the company could give info like call records to "affiliates, agents and parent companies," kicked up some fuss online. GigaOM says that this is the same issue that popped up in late 2007, when Verizon sent a similar notice to its customers. Verizon's PR bloggers say that now, just like in 2007, there's nothing to worry about -- in fact, the PR person went so far as to merely cut and paste his comments on the issue from two years ago. He says that Verizon won't sell customer's info to third parties; it just needs their consent to share it among the Verizon group of companies so it can offer people bundled services.

Given the way the company is communicating the issue -- a bill insert few people will likely pay attention to, written in a format that's pretty difficult, if not impossible, for most average people to divine any real meaning from -- it's hard to accept the explanation at face value. This is representative of the lack of transparency telcos and ISPs often take on privacy issues. Instead of clearly explaining themselves and what they're doing with customer data, they shroud their efforts in secrecy and legalese, then just say "there's nothing to worry about, just move along." If there really is nothing to worry about, why can't they do a better job of making that clear to the public? Their method of communication, and the way they explain themselves, simply increases consumers' skepticism and makes it look like they've got something to hide. In addition, making the system opt-out, rather than opt-in, doesn't help either.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    thomas, Mar 9th, 2009 @ 4:19pm

    Always assume they will sell everything.

    One should always assume that Verizon and others will sell any information they can gather about you to third parties. It does not matter if it's "verizon group of companies" (what the heck is that anyway?) or total unrelated; if they can gather and get paid for it then they will sell it. I get numerous annoying calls from Verizon 'affiliates' and they keep calling even when I ask them not to. Ditto from Verizon - they call every week trying to sell more services, even though I beg them to stop. Since they have a business relationship with me, they maintain they can call as often as they like to offer new services and the 'do not call' list doesn't mean anything to Verizon customers. They maintain that since I have a business relationship with them there is no reason whatsoever for them not to call me as often as they want. I often wonder how many junk calls and junk mail I get as a direct result of Verizon selling my info.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 9th, 2009 @ 6:16pm

    isnt it a bit strange how companines that operate in the communication markets are so poor at communication

     

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  3.  
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    Hermitiary, Mar 9th, 2009 @ 6:57pm

    Re: Always assume they will sell everything.

    Same here, I've been screening my calls for weeks now due to Verizon 'spam' calls. Them and local politicos robo-calling from out of state.

    My phone, I pay for it. Stay the hell off my lines.

     

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  4.  
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    Haywood, Mar 9th, 2009 @ 8:04pm

    Re: Always assume they will sell everything.

    I find a string of profanity guaranteed to make a sailor blush tends to decrease sales call frequency.

     

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  5.  
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    Dan, Mar 9th, 2009 @ 11:48pm

    Maybe some of their customers would like to share the top 100 Verizon execs info with the web. And while your at it start collecting the "partners" info and add them to the list. I am sure the top 1000 spammers would like to know.

     

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  6.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Mar 10th, 2009 @ 5:46am

    Legalese & Spam

    I think there really shouldn't be a need for legalese. If no normal person can understand, it does seem rather daft to send it out to everybody. Should be outlawed or something.

    @Thomas
    Tell them you have a lawyer on hand who is willing to help you sue them for harassment if they do not stop.

    OORRRRRRRRR
    Run the Counterscript on them:
    http://www.xs4all.nl/~egbg/counterscript.html
    It is really funny, and actually I used it on a company that would not stop calling me. After running him through about 2/3 of it (last I asked was "how much do you earn") I told him I had enough information and if I needed anything more, I would call him back.
    They have never called back since.
    The counterscript even includes responses for the different ways they are not working with you. If they are being angry or ignoring you. Fun times.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2009 @ 7:40am

    Re: Legalese & Spam

    While I can appreciate that telemarketing calls can be annoying and disruptive, I have a problem with harassing the operators back. The people on the phones aren't the ones you should be angry with, they're just working stiff like the rest of us. The do a job so that they can pay the rent and buy groceries, and everytime you're able to smugly hang up having 'won' the counter-harrassment game, you've ruined the day of a regular person.

    It's the CEOs and directors of such companies that you should have a problem with, and harrassing their employees won't ever touch them. The telemarketter is just doing their job when they press you to sign up for more services -- when you harrass them back, you're just being an ass.

    Politely say 'I'm not interested,' and hang up. If you want to make a fuss, make a fuss to someone who matters and can fix it.

     

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  8.  
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    Chris Brand, Mar 10th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    clear communication and opt-in

    The two of course go together - if they had to get people to opt-in, they'd have to clearly explain what it was they were asking you to opt-in to (as well as telling you what advantage there is to you to do so). As long as they can ask you to opt-out, they can just let the lawyers write the documentation (which is really aimed at the courts, not the customer).

     

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  9.  
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    originalamazed, Mar 10th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Know Your Rights!

    According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) there is generally no such thing as an "opt out" telemarketing, or direct mail program. The one exception is the one that Congress made for Financial Institutions ability to share information between subsidiaries (and hence one of the contributors to the bail-out). Otherwise, *ALL* outbound telemarketing programs *MUST BE* opt-in.

    First, if you haven't, place your phone number(s) (including cell phone) on the National Do Not Call List. You can do so on the web by accessing https://donotcall.gov/.

    Remember that it takes 31 days for this to take effect. During this period, it is legal and legit for telemarketers to call.

    Each and every time someone calls you soliciting something that you choose not to buy, USE THIS EXACT FOLLOWING PHRASE, "I am currently on the National Do Not Call List. Please place this number on *YOUR* do not call list".

    Do *NOT* say,"Take me off your (calling) list." as what you've actually told them is that they have leave to remove you from their DNC. While technically they would likely need a written release to do this, if you had a DNC complaint filed and they recorded you saying, "Take me off your (calling) list.", your complaint isn't probably going to go anywhere with the FTC.

    That's it. By law each and every vendor (and their sub-contractors) are required to keep a "do not call" list. You do not need to get angry, no need for drama, no need for threats. Just ask them to do this. Do remember though that the actual vendor (Cable Company, Newspaper, Satellite, etc.) almost always uses outside contractors that may not have gotten the "DNC" information from the vendor. Just ask to be put on their do not call list.

    Also check the National DNC about once a month to make certain that your number is still listed. *ANY* interruption of your telephone service, say to change of service features, effect a repair, temporary disconnect due to billing, etc. Can result in your number "falling off" the DNC. Always check to make certain you are covered.

    You might also wish to gain additional coverage through your State's DNC. You can find the list agencies at http://www.the-dma.org/government/donotcalllists.shtml

    You should also search any and all "do not mail" as well as the national "do not e-mail" list. To date these lists have little (if any) backing in law however, in order to not kill all routes to the prospective customers, members of the DMA are generally respecting them.

     

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  10.  
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    Thomas, Mar 10th, 2009 @ 7:31pm

    Re: Know Your Rights!

    Anyone who believes DNC works is out of touch with reality.

    If company A completely ignores DNC while making $ 25 million and then gets fined 200K by the FCC, they are ahead of the game. In case of a really big fine, they can simply declare bankruptcy and start a new business. Look at the Google Money Tree scam - they claim to not be subject to the DNC and refuse to listen to any request to be placed on a DNC. Result: they can call as often as they wish; 50 times a day, 24hours a day. Suppose they get fined 100K; why should they care? They make 20 million.

    Verizon ignores DNC and so do most of the companies. Why in the world should they care if they get fined now and then? They know full well the government isn't really going to do anything to hurt them.

     

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  11.  
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    lrobbo (profile), Jun 12th, 2012 @ 11:39am

    The definition of harmless is . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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