AT&T pulls back tracking customers Internet usage, users at the mercy of the carriers

AT&T has finally stopped using a controversial technology that many privacy advocates believe could allow advertisers to seriously misuse and invade smartphone owner’s private information. The company had been adding a unique identifier it its web traffic that was generated from a smartphone, or a device under the AT&T umbrella.

However, as of last week, the company stopped using those unique trackers. While the sample size was relatively small, and the company was only in a test-phase of the feature, which would allow the company – and those advertisers within the company have a better idea of what users were searching for on their phones.


The overwhelming point was that internet service providers are anxious to get in on the ‘advertising’ action, as Google and Facebook generate billions of dollars in revenue by selling users information to potential advertisers. It’s this practice though, that Verizon is guilty of also, that makes users and privacy advocates so uneasy.

However, Verizon has an opt-out clause where their users can opt-out of having this type of information collected at mass, as they currently do. A spokeswoman for AT&T noted that “We don’t currently have a Relevant Advertising program in place, but we could have one in the future. It could be this exact program that we tested, it could be something else entirely.”

For many that is the first, of many major red flags, that individuals are growing more and more skeptical about. This testing harshly contradicts, and circumvents privacy settings and tools, like do-not-track lists, and private browsing sessions. While this is something that the companies are swiftly in favor of, due to the inevitable profitability, individuals are saying “No!” to this attempt at collecting information.

While AT&T does not currently have an advertising platform in place, the company is clearly working toward that very concept – so users are encouraged to maintain a close-eye on the things that are being tracked on their phone, and the information that they’re asked to give up on their smartphones, as well as tablets. Verizon started their advertising program over two years ago in 2012, but didn’t receive nearly as much criticism by the move as AT&T did this time. Although the company did note that they were not sure what the next step would be in terms of finding an ad-related solution within the context of their business.


About the author

Nitin Agarwal

Nitin has a background in Electrical Engineering and is passionate about the Internet of Things. He covers how connected devices like smart homes, wearables, and industrial IoT are changing our daily lives. Nitin is also a DIY enthusiast and loves to build IoT gadgets.