How Smartphone Carriers Are Making Money By Tracking Your Behavior

smartphone carriers

A log of vast numbers of individuals’ movements and actions is a burgeoning goldmine for major wireless carriers, the MIT Technology Review writes:

Wireless operators have access to an unprecedented volume of information about users’ real-world activities, but for years these massive data troves were put to little use other than for internal planning and marketing.

This data is under lock and key no more. Under pressure to seek new revenue streams, a growing number of mobile carriers are now carefully mining, packaging, and repurposing their subscriber data to create powerful statistics about how people are moving about in the real world.

In late 2011, Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. carrier, changed its privacy policy so that it could share anonymous and aggregated subscriber data with outside parties. Verizon is working to sell demographics about the people who, for example, attend an event, how they got there or the kinds of apps they use once they arrive.

In Europe, Telefonica launched a similar program last October, and the head of this new business unit gave the keynote address at new industry conference on “big data monetization in telecoms” in January.

AirSage, an Atlanta, Georgia, a company founded in 2000, has spent much of the last decade negotiating what it says are exclusive rights to put its hardware inside the firewalls of two of the top three U.S. wireless carriers and collect, anonymize, encrypt, and analyze cellular tower signaling data in real time. It has been processing 15 billion locations a day and can account for movement of about a third of the U.S. population in some places to within less than 100 meters.

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  • emperorreagan

    Verizon will be sorely disappointed to find that my phone spends the vast majority of its time sitting on my dresser, where I most frequently forget it.

    • kowalityjesus

      my phone is too primitive to provide all but the most rudimentary data. now THAT’s beating the system, lol.

      I mean but really, who could expect them to hold all of that data and not profit off of it? They’re a damn corporation, for goodness sake. Data is not like cardboard: waste is only waste when there’s potential for profit.

  • BuzzCoastin

    I remember when everyone laughed at the thought
    of Big Brother’s telescreens everywhere
    now people willingly carry their telescreens around

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