In today’s online world, many companies are increasingly using customer data to help personalize and improve the products and services they offer consumers.
All of us are familiar with Facebook serving ads to its users based on common interests they have explicitly or implicitly documented on Facebook. And we know that Google collects information and uses that to provide us with information and ads.
In our own industry, Verizon uses anonymous and aggregate customer data to create marketing reports that help other companies better serve their customers.
At AT&T, we similarly plan to provide our customers with these sorts of personalized services and we’re committed to doing so in line with our longstanding policy to respect and protect our customers’ privacy.
The new policy does a couple of things. First, we have tried to make it easier for our customers to understand the data we collect, how we use it, and how we protect it. Second, we have structured our policy in a manner that provides very straightforward consumer controls over the data we obtain from you or through your use of our services, websites and applications. Many of these changes are derived from customer research in which we asked customers how they want to hear about these topics.
We like to think about data and use of data in three large contexts:
Providing You Service and Improving Our Network and Services: We use network data to provide our voice, Internet and video services and to fix any issues that cause service problems. What do I mean? The network locates your mobile device to complete a call or to deliver the location-based services you want. We also check how our network is performing for you at various locations so we can improve those spots that need it. We use this type of information to make our products and services better, and as a guide to let you know about new AT&T products and services that you might like.
Personal Information: We know our customers care about privacy just as we do. So, we also worked to provide greater transparency and customer controls over how your data is used. We don’t sell your personal information, and we won’t use it (other than to provide and improve your services as discussed above) unless you tell us you want us to do that. For example, we offer an application called AT&T Alerts. It provides you great discounts on AT&T and AT&T partner products and services. It might send you a coupon if you happen to be near one of our partner retailers. But you have to sign up for AT&T Alerts to get the service. In other words, we use your personal information for this program only if you tell us in advance that you want us to do that.
Aggregate and Anonymous Data: This is data that can’t be tracked back to you individually. Here’s an easy example: After an election in your community, officials will release the final vote tally. They might say that 60 percent of the voters picked Candidate A and 40 percent picked Candidate B. That information is a type of aggregate and anonymous data. It’s “aggregate” because it combines information for the whole community telling you who the community as a whole voted for, and it is anonymous because the data doesn’t tell you who voted for which candidate. In the Internet world, aggregate and anonymous data can be used by retailers, advertisers and marketing companies to figure out what consumers want in a particular area. You benefit by having better products available and seeing advertising more relevant to your particular consumer segment.
The new programs we are introducing will use aggregate and anonymous data to create marketing and analytics reports, and to allow us to deliver more relevant advertising to our customers. In creating these programs, we wanted to make sure they fit with our privacy commitments. That’s why we also created consumer controls that will allow you to choose not to have your anonymous information included in these reports, and to choose not to receive the more relevant advertising if you don’t want it. To be clear, you will still receive the same number of ads, they just won’t be as relevant. Of critical importance to our customers is the fact that these programs are based on strictly anonymous information, and they are designed for insight into groups, not individuals.