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Tales of data pirates: Opting out of Verizon’s open-ended sharing

A small legalistic pamphlet from Verizon arrived today telling me that I have 45 days to opt out of “agreeing” to let Verizon share Customer Proprietary Network Information, i.e., “information created by virtue of your relationship with Verizon Wireless,” including “services purchased (including specific calls you make and receive,” billing info, technical info and location info. They promise to only share this with “affiliates, agents and parent companies.” It will definitely not be shared with “unrelated third parties” … unless, perhaps that third party pays Verizon to become an affiliate, whatever the heck “affiliate ” means.

To opt out you can call 1-800-333-9956. Or you can follow the instructions in the mailing to go to and log into My Verizon where you will find no mention, no button, no link and no help. Ah, but you forgot to check your Messages. There you will indeed find a link to CPNI. The link is marked “Not available.” Dead end.

You could then call Verizon’s excellent telephone support. (Nope, I’m not being sarcastic.) They won’t be able to find the opt out button either. But during the 8 minutes the rep puts you on hold, you’ll be amused to hear one of their continuous bits of self-promotion tell you that Verizon never shares your personal information. Oh, what a wry sense of humor Verizon has!

When you escalate the call, you will finally be told to click on the My Profile tab in My Verizon, then click on Phone Controls, and there you will conveniently find the link. It’s just that simple!

The whole thing sucks :( [Tags: ]


[March 10:] Verizon responds in its blog. GigaOm responds more broadly to that response. And I still say that the if you’re going to make the mistake of opting us in to sharing private info, then you have an ethical obligation to make it damn clear to us that you’re doing so, and making it a damn site easier for us to opt out.


[March 11:] Al Gidari, Jr. of Perkins Cole is giving a talk at the Berkman Center about the privacy of mobile-based info. I asked him about CPNI. Here are my notes on what he said:

The kerfuffle was an example of bad journalism. The article expressed it badly. The info you are opted in to giving can be used only within the family of companies for marketing purposes. For sharing outside, it requires explicit opt-in. And CPNI has a higher standard for location info, which does not get shared. An “affiliate” is an entity you own or control. Verizon is incorporated in separate states, so they’re trying to share the info among that family of corporations.

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