"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Data Quality Campaign and AT&T Want Your Personal Information. Why?

Do you know where or how your data is being shared via AT&T or Data Quality Campaign?

This post is a follow-up to yesterday's article on the Data Quality Campaign announcing the intent to advocate for inclusive, aligned, and relevant education and workforce data. DQC does not detail what those three adjectives represent in education data and if these are solely assessment data or if it includes personal data on students and families.

Data mining is rampant and includes the gathering of your information by private companies.  Recently I received a letter from AT&T informing me they were going to sell my information to third parties.  Below is the resulting correspondence I had with AT&T and my children.  We owe our children in public schools the same diligence to protect their data from third party vendors and various federal agencies.

Before you read the emails, here is some history about AT&T's educational connection with DQC.:     
 AT&T is a funder for the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that wants to merge educational data with workforce data.
  •  AT&T has given millions ($500,000 to DQC) to push data driven methods in schools.
  • What information does AT&T want to mine on its customers and where will this information be sent, stored and how will it be used?
  • If AT&T customers can opt out of privacy data mining, then why isn't this option mentioned in the original email?
  • If AT&T does offer opting out, then shouldn't parents have this option as well for their children in public school education?
  • Why do private businesses and public education believe that people want to be tracked?  Why do they believe they have the right to do so?


Original Message:

July 11, 2013

Regarding Account Number: xxxxx

Dear Valued Customer,

We know your privacy is important, so we've made it a priority to talk to you about it. We're revising our Privacy Policy to make it easier to understand, and we want to point out two new programs that could help us and other businesses serve you better.

The first program will make reports available to businesses. These reports will contain anonymous information about groups of customers, such as how they collectively use our products and services. The second program will use local geography as a factor in delivering online and mobile ads to the people who might find them most useful.

As always, we follow important principles to keep your trust:

  • We are committed to protecting your privacy.
  • We provide you with privacy choices.
  • We will not sell information that identifies you to anyone, for any purpose. Period.
  • We are committed to listening and keeping you informed about how we protect your privacy.
The two new programs are described in this notice, including your privacy choices for each. You can also read the new and old versions of our privacy policy at att.com/privacy.

To provide feedback on the new policy, please write us in the next 30 days at privacyfeedback@att.com or AT&T Privacy Policy, 1120 20th Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20036.

robert quinn jr signature
Robert W. Quinn Jr.
Senior Vice President - Federal Regulatory; Chief Privacy Officer

P.S.: Please note that if you have multiple accounts, we thank you, and we want to let you know you may receive more than one copy of this notice.

MEW note: There was no option to "opt out" via this email even though a quick Internet search on this privacy change letter shows the opt out information as one letter:

privacyfeedback@att.com or AT&T Privacy Policy, 1120 20th Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington,. DC 20036. Sincerely,. Robert W. Quinn Jr. AT&T. Senior Vice ...

From:  xxxxx
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:56 AM
To: Privacyfeedback
Subject: Privacy policy comment
Dear ATT:

This is response to your email about your privacy policy.

I protest that ANY information on our account/usage, etc is given out to ANY third party, even if it is aggregate information.  I believe that my data usage and any other information should be private and not provided to any third party vendor. 

I also do not care to have any ads tweaked to my interests based on my location, data or how I use my telephone.  I consider this an invasion of my privacy.  Your two privacy choices are not really choices at all.  Both release information to third parties.  Where is the third choice to opt out of these two "choices"?  With the recent NSA scandal, I would suggest you not release any information to any party.   Just a few data points allow aggregate data to become personally identifiable.

I would like some clarification on you not selling information.  I am making the assumption you are referring to not selling individualized information, correct?  But you are selling aggregate information?  You should be paying your customers for the use of this information.  You are charging us for phone service and then you are making more money from the selling of customer aggregate information to third parties.  Shouldn't the customer realize some financial remuneration for using their data for third party use?

I do not believe you are protecting my privacy.  You are using customer data to make more money and as such, I believe customers should see a reduction in their phone bills to reflect the use of their aggregate data.

Please advise us if your company will indeed offer an opt out choice, a reduction in our data cost, or if we need to begin looking for another phone provider.




-----Original Message-----
From: Privacyfeedback & Privacy_Feedback@att.com;
To: Sent: Fri, Jul 12, 2013 3:49 pm
Subject: RE: Privacy policy comment

Thank you for contacting AT&T.  You can choose to have your anonymous information excluded from the External Marketing & Analytics Reports by visiting  http://att.com/cmpchoice,  or calling 1-866-344-9850.  You can opt-out of receiving Relevant Advertising from AT&T AdWorks by going to http://adworks.att.com/adpreferences  on your computer or http://adworks.att.com/mobileoptout on your wireless device. Similar to other advertising choices, you must opt-out from each computer browser or wireless device that you wish to exclude.  We appreciate having you as our customer. 


What I sent to my sons:

-----Original Message-----
From: xxx

Sent: Fri, Jul 12, 2013 3:56 pm
Subject: FROM MOM. READ THIS PLEASE. Privacy policy comment

I would ask that each of you read the emails below.

You will need to opt out your cell phones.  Please let me know when you have done so.




From The Huffington Post on the data mining information to be obtained by AT&T:

Last week, telecom giant AT&T quietly updated its privacy policy with a controversial change: The company would begin selling customers' information to marketers and other businesses.

Selling customer data is nothing new for the likes of Facebook and Google. Those companies make billions of dollars targeting ads based on personal information. However, AT&T's data mining is a potentially troubling development for the company's large group of 105 million subscribers. The “External Marketing and Analytics Reporting” program would allow AT&T to sell information including your location based on WiFi connections, web broswing history and app usage.

Here's a comment similar to mine from a Huffington Post reader:

I rec'd notice by mail with instructions for opting out. It also invites feedback on ATT's new Privacy Policy. The letter is from Robert Quinn, SVP Fed Reg and Chief Privacy Officer. Here's the feedback I sent:
Dear Mr. Quinn,

I am in receipt of your July 1 letter announcing ATT's new privacy policy with instructions for opting out of two ATT profit-generating programs, one of which sells aggregate customer data to other businesses and another which collects personal data from customers to tailor advertising to them, essentially Googlizing paying ATT customers.

Anyone born before 1970 knows the very American principal from which we've drifted:

If you provide a service to customers, the customers pay; if you want something from
customers, you pay them.

I am aware of all the cocktails on K-Street and all the jurisprudence that makes it legal for you to do what you do. I remain opposed.

Also, your opt-out for your "relevant advertising" program demands that one not only opt out for each device, but for each browser. It also demands that browser settings be altered to save a cookie to maintain this opt-out. This method is inadequate and a burden on customers. I would like to charge you rent for making me store this cookie.

Also, by the way, thanks for all your great work with the NSA and its numerous affiliates.
Sincerely, [etc etc]

Maybe AT&T is providing their business template to the DQC for educational data mining?  This is the private plan for providing information to other businesses and firms.  It's coming to your schools next.  Will you have the chance to opt your publicly educated child out of  data mining? 

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