T-Mobile cheats your app and web history to advertisers
IN yet another Example that T-Mobile is the worst with customer data, the company announced a new scheme to make money this week: sales it is customers app download data and browsing history to advertisers.
The package of data is portion of the company’s new “App Insights” adtech product which was in beta last year but formally rolled out this week. According to AdExchanger, which first reported the news of the announcement from the Cannes festivalthe new product will allow marketers to track and target T-Mobile customers based on the apps they have downloaded and their “engagement patterns” – which means when or how often they open and close certain apps.
The same “patterns” also include the types of domains a person visits in their mobile browser. All this data is collected in what the company calls “personas”, which let Marketers micro-target someone according to their phone habits. An example that T-Mobile’s head of advertising products, Jess Zhu, told AdExchanger, was that a person with a personal app on the phone who also tends to visit, for example, Expedia’s website, could be grouped as a “business traveler.” The company noted that there are no personas built on “gender or cultural identity”—So a person who visits many Christian sites, for example, and has a Bible app or two installed, will not be profiled based on it.
“App Insights transforms this data into actionable insights. Marketers can see app usage, growth and storage and compare activity between brands and product categories, »a statement from T-Mobile read.
T-Mobile (and Sprint, by affiliation) are certainly not the only operators pledging this data; as Ars Technica first noted last yearVerizon overridden customer privacy preferences to sell their browser and app usage data. And while AT&T had initially planned to sell access to similar data almost a decade agothe company at present claims which it uses exclusively “Non-sensitive information” such as age group and zip code to show targeted ads.
But T-Mobile also does not want to stop marketers from taking matters into their own hands. A head of the advertising agency who spoke to AdExchanger said that one of the “most exciting” things about this new advertising product is the ability to micro-target members of the LGBTQ community. Sure, it’s not one of the pre-built personas offered in the App Insights product, “but a marketer can target phones with Grindr installed, for example, or use these audiences for analytics,” notes the original interview.
There is, of course, the question of how some of this is legal – especially considering how many mobile operators (including T-Mobile!) received fines in 2020 to pledge the client’s data to brokers without their consent, years after they had promised not to.
The answer is that they had promised not to sell placement data. Web browsing data is still on the table. And although T-Mobile does not integrate people’s positions into its new computer product, AdExchanger notes that the company would not Stop an agency from, for example, collaborating with another adtech provider to get that information themselves. And as we have seen in the pastthere are definitely providers who are willing to give away the location data for the right price.
However, it is a bright spot; at least for now, T-Mobile marketers do not allow micro-targeted iOS users. Apple’s recent privacy updates have made data collection too much of a headache – and a responsibility – for some of the largest players in the computer game, and it apparently includes mobile operators. So no Apple data comes in (or out) of the App Insights product, says T-Mobile. Then again, this is the same company that chose it customers into one targeted advertising program which neither of them consented to.