AT&T to offer ad supported phone plans where you give up privacy for $5 to $10

Posted on Sep 16, 2020 by Caleb Chen
AT&T to offer ad supported phone plans where you give up privacy for $5 to $10

AT&T is planning to offer ad-supported phone plans within a year, according to an exclusive interview that AT&T CEO John Stankey had with Reuters. For those that are keeping track of anti-privacy moves from AT&T, this action is particularly stanky. Stankey told Reuters:

“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill.”

While this has been tried many times in the past, AT&T seems to firmly believe that with better targeted advertising, the goldmine might finally be within reach. According to Stankey, these ad-supported phone plans could hit the markets within “a year or two.”

AT&T is trying to buy your privacy for $5 to $10 per month

AT&T’s CEO told Reuters that AT&T engineers are working on “unified customer identifiers” that are pervasive and can be used to track AT&T customers across devices. With these identifiers in place, along with permission from customers to analyze all internet and app traffic from the phone, and extra data bought from third parties, AT&T rightfully believes that they’ll be able to charge a higher rate to advertisers. The thing is, the value of that privacy and the associated targeted advertising is arguably more than $5 to $10 a month and for many is actually priceless. Though it’s worth pointing out that a recent study put the price somewhere in the range.

Of course, AT&T isn’t the only telecom or internet provider that has thought to go down this path before. AT&T has even done it for internet connections before with their AT&T GigaPower plan. Back in the GigaPower days, AT&T’s PR department stated:

“We offer customers a choice to share their data or not. If they do, they receive a discount and relevant advertising tailored to their interests.”

Verizon also launched a similar program called Verizon Up where customers would give up the privacy of their internet history in exchange for coupons. These types of pay-for-privacy schemes have become more blatant because of the FCC’s repeal of internet privacy rules in 2017 which allows these carriers to monetize the internet history of their customers. Big telecom is increasingly being emboldened by the lack of regulations protecting consumer’s privacy rights and we are seeing the results of a lack of federal level privacy regulation or a constitutional right to privacy stronger than the Fourth Amendment. To put it in perspective, there could be states such as California or Maine where AT&T won’t be allowed to sell ad-supported phone plans exactly how they’d like to.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you sign away your privacy rights to AT&T for 5 to 10 bucks per month? The thing is, AT&T has previously been caught selling leads directly to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other law enforcement agencies in the past in what was literally a for-profit mass surveillance program. AT&T even has a VPN service which admittedly sells the logs captured from those that use the anti-privacy service. All this is to say that AT&T is not a company that should be trusted to care about your privacy. Sure this upcoming AT&T mobile plan may seem like it’ll save you a few bucks per month, but what you’ll be giving up in privacy and dignity just isn’t worth it.

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