Nowadays, it’s almost impossible for consumers to go online without being tracked in some way. Even browsers like DuckDuckGo, which have risen in popularity for their privacy features, have acknowledged that some tracking is still taking place. Website visitation and online searches are just two ways that consumers can be tracked. In a landscape dominated by daily smartphone usage, advertisers also can learn quite a bit about the apps people are opening, and that’s something that wireless provider T-Mobile is now openly monetizing.
The company recently launched its new ad platform T-Mobile Advertising Solutions for the explicit purpose of aggregating mobile app usage data and selling it to advertisers. T-Mobile stresses that app usage is the “strongest indicator of consumer intent.” The company says that it does not track user location data or individual activity within each app; instead, T-Mobile is monitoring the apps a user has chosen to download and “how often and for how long they open and engage with those apps.”
The platform currently is only used for tracking Android users as Apple’s privacy rules make it difficult to implement on iOS devices. That said, both Apple and Google have recently come under scrutiny from lawmakers who have requested the FTC to investigate these giants purportedly “engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of mobile phone users’ personal information.”
For T-Mobile users who want to keep all things private, they have the option of opting out of the program entirely through the company’s Magenta Marketing Platform Choices app. T-Mobile is choosing to be more explicit about selling user data, but the other major wireless carriers, Verizon and AT&T, also track users’ information. AT&T even goes so far as to track its customers’ biometric data such as fingerprints. Verizon and AT&T customers can also opt out, of course, but whether they remember to do so is another matter.
As for T-Mobile, the good news is that its base appears to be less concerned about data privacy. Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows that just one-third of T-Mobile subscribers is uncomfortable with websites and mobile apps sharing their info with advertisers, while that figure jumps to 39% and 49% for Verizon and AT&T, respectively.