Courtesy Verizon Wireless

A year ago, I reported on the digital footprint we all leave behind when we search the Internet. While unnerving, there are steps you can take to increase your privacy online like using your browser’s Incognito or Private Browsing mode. However, I think we only know half of what is collected about us. As marketers look for ways to make money online and on mobile, we’re learning more about how our personal information is collected. Verizon Wireless is telling customers they collect certain information about them, and if you don’t like it opt out.

Verizon told customers it is updating its privacy policy since it’s using information in new ways. It’s collecting information to make mobile ads more relevant to each user, and for certain business and marketing reports. The marketing report might say 10,000 sports fans visited a site and 60% were male, but the information will not be personally connected to you.

Verizon says it will collect information like the addresses for sites you visit, search terms you use, apps and features used, location of your device, data and calling features used, amount of use, demographic information like your age and whether you are a sports fan.

Verizon says it would want information like your location to tell marketers that a certain percentage of people take a certain highway during rush hour. Verizon says that specific information would likely be combined with data from other wireless carriers. Does that mean we’ll see billboards along that highway targeting certain demographics? It’s a unique opportunity to gather specific marketing research that otherwise wouldn’t be available, but it’s not without critics.

The Federal Trade Commission is proposing a do not track option for browsers. Originally, it was described as similar to the do not call list. It’s a bit more complicated than that, and the FTC says it doesn’t want to run this list and is encouraging browsers to enact do not track standards or lists.

When privacy first became an issue, I was totally opposed to a company collecting this information about me. I know they do it with long-standing things like loyalty or frequent shopper cards, but the collection of data online and on mobile devices seemed more intrusive to me at first. I guess I believed it was intrusive because I didn’t sign up for a web browser to collect my information, but I did sign up to get rewards from my local grocer or the online shopping site that earns me cash back.

As I’ve dwelled on this more, I’m beginning to get a bit complacent about it. We are tracked whether we are driving down the street and caught on a surveillance camera, or our digital habits are tracked. I think companies should be more upfront about it and request our permission. I don’t like this data collection, but it’s beginning to become expected if you use a digital device.

Related links you may like:
Update your browser to surf more privately
Erase your digital footprint
FTC wants browsers to adopt do not track proposal