How to Stop T-Mobile from Selling Your Web Browsing Data
Ars Technica reports that T-Mobile will start selling customer Web-browsing and device-usage data to advertisers next month. If you use Sprint, that also applies to you since T-Mobile acquired Sprint last year. T-Mobile’s data-sharing program is reportedly more aggressive than AT&T’s or Verizon’s. T-Mobile claims that it doesn’t hand over your name, only a unique identifier, but security researchers have shown how easy it is for advertisers to link such identifiers back to individuals. Visit T-Mobile’s Privacy Notice for instructions to opt out of data-sharing. If you feel the desire to share your opinion of this sleazy program with T-Mobile, we’re sure the company would appreciate the feedback.
According to one comment on the AppleInsider forum, prepaid customers aren’t allowed to opt-out.
And some people (including myself) have a T-Mobile work phone that is managed by an employer’s IT department and therefore can’t opt-out because only the IT people have the login credentials necessary to access the account. (Hopefully the IT people will opt-out on our behalf).
This may be illegal in the EU, but I’m not sure. There is no opt-out to be found in T-M’s app here in NL in the EU.
This article also shows how to opt out of sharing on AT&T and Verizon.
Their link for Verizon is broken - returns a 404 error.
To get to the right page, go to https://www.verizon.com/. Then log in using the link in the upper-right corner.
Once logged in, hover the mouse pointer over Account (at the top of the screen) and click on Privacy Settings on the left-side column of the popup menu.
From there, there are separate links to edit Privacy Settings and Verizon Selects (a different targeted ad program) settings.
I’m not going to share a link to the target page, because it appears that different account types (e.g. prepaid vs postpaid) are taken to different pages.
It’s baffling to me this is even legal in the US. How can selling my data to 3rd parties without my expressed consent be legal? How can it be legal to default all their customers to opt-in and then tell them via another 3rd party (Ars) to “just opt-out” if they don’t like that?
The last European country I worked in had one very simple privacy law. Any of your data acquired by a company you have business with can only be used for purposes expressed when you enter business with them. Anything they later want to add needs your explicit permission. In that system the default would have been opt-out and the burden would have been on T-Mobile to convince me to allow them to monetize something that belongs to me, my data.
If I didn’t know that AT&T or Verizon were just as bad this would have certainly got me to leave T-Mobile. I’m sure T-Mobile is well aware of that market dynamic (or rather lack thereof). Just one more reason why it’s quite unfortunate we here in the US now have only these three mega corps to choose from when we choose a cellular network. But please tell me again how it’s in my best interest that regulators shouldn’t regulate and how reduced competition is somehow good for me. /smh
I’m a T-Mobile customer, and hate that they are doing this. It does seem unethical and potentially illegal. Fortunately, there’s are new FTC and FCC sheriffs in town.
If you’re a subscriber like me, log in and go to Profile > Privacy and notifications > Advertiser & Analytics, and click each line in turn, and then click disable “use my data…” I did that for the seven lines we have (four in my family plus a Watch plus my parents’ lines, which are on my plan).
I’m prepaid t-mobile (a grandfathered plan). I added a refill card last week, and while logged in I tried to look at the Privacy and Notification settings to make sure everything was still off. Got an error of “We are currently having trouble with your request. Please wait a few minutes and try again” Tried a few times then gave up, assuming server issues. I’m getting the same error today, so I don’t yet know if new opt out settings exist for prepaid. It could be that the error is a quick way to remove any control we had earlier too, or it could be incompetence. Probably the latter.
Getting the error is an improvement over yesterday when all I could get is server isn’t available…gee, I wonder why they went down?
It was enough to finally get me to turn on protonvpn on every device. I’ve been intermittent before. I also threw them some money for the plus subscription to get access to their blockers for ads, malware and tracking.
I’d been considering switching to Mint Mobile, which is cheaper than the plan I currently have. The decision is now made to opt-out of t-mobile itself, and the Mint tryout sim is on its way. From reviews, it may be somewhat throttled compared to direct t-mob, but it will still be a lot faster than my home dsl. The main disadvantage will be that apple music data use will count.
Yes, I know Mint runs over t-mobile, but I hate all of the carriers, and at least it reduces the revenue they’ll get from me.
I’ll be taking good advantage of that feedback link! I may also put in a complaint to our attorney general–Fergusson loves going after sleazy communications companies. If this is illegal (especially prepaid not being able to opt out easily if at all), he’ll probably be on it.
I was wondering how this issue affected those of us who use a carrier that buys access from one of these Major Players. I use Consumer Cellular so I asked them how the issue of selling user data plays out and here’s what they said:
“We use the network towers of both AT&T and T-Mobile. However, you are not their customer. That means they don’t have access to our databases, and they can’t distribute your information to other agencies. There’s is no need to opt ut of that since we won’t share your information.”
And for my family, they are much less expensive than AT&T, Verison, or T-Moble/Sprint.
I’ve got that 200 MB for free each month plan, and I was unable to opt out.
Thanks for that idea, although since I usually don’t come near the 200 MB over cellular, probably I don’t care if T-Mobile sells the pittance of my browsing history.
Thanks for posting that. I suspected as much, but it’s nice to have some confirmation. (My phone runs on a different mobile virtual network operator than Consumer Cellular, but I assume it’s the same for all of them.)
Legally that’s true, but the main carriers have your unique phone IMEI and access to all of the data that goes through their servers, plus locations even if you aren’t their direct customer. If they want to harvest everything they can, and I’d be surprised if they don’t since there have never been serious repercussions even if they get get caught. Even if they don’t sell it, it’s vulnerable to illegal access.
I’ve known it all along and meant to mitigate what’s possible (what you do with your data; there’s nothing to be done about IMEI and location data), but inertia. Every now and again, being unpleasantly prodded is useful.
t-mobile is still showing the ‘currently having trouble’ error. I’m finding it hard to believe that it’s an honest server problem after 10 days of it.
My guess is that about 95% of content that is available online could not afford to exist without the income third party ad sales generates. It’s why Facebook is totally apoplectic over Apple’s nutrition labels. And the vast majority of people around the globe don’t give a hoot about whether they are being tracked or not. Facebook is #3 among the world’s most visited websites, #2 among the world’s most visited apps. Add in WhatsApp, Messenger, etc., and the revenue picture and stock price gets stronger and continues to grow every year.
I think that’s just for advertisers and analytics. To opt out of the selling of your data, you have to follow the special link in Josh’s paragraph above and specifically opt out. I was not able to make the opt out button stick in Safari but it appears to have worked with Chrome.
Thanks for that tip—I can’t believe they have a second place you have to do this! (It’s possible the account-based settings also apply, because they seem very broad.) This turned out to be my experience with Safari as well: it failed; I switched to Chrome; now T-Mobile’s account system seems to be down.
Now it’s back online, and, even in Chrome, I can’t click Done. However, the “off” switch is to “off” for Do Not Sell…we need the FCC to ban opt-out practices
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