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.
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Filed Under: cpni, information sharing, pr
Companies: verizon

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  1. identicon
    originalamazed, 10 Mar 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

    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

    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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