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How to Prevent AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon from Sharing your Data

by on March 16, 2021
in Privacy, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Tips & How-Tos :: 0 comments

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Starting next month, T-Mobile will automatically enroll its subscribers — including Sprint customers — in a tracking program that will share their web browsing and app use data (but not location data) with advertisers. This means you'll see ads that are more relevant to your interests. So if you've been browsing for information on new cars, you're more likely to see advertisements for car dealerships on your smartphone. That in itself may not sound bad, but tracking and sharing that kind of information gives advertisers a lot of personal information that you may not want to share — and may not be aware you're even sharing.

Using your browsing data for targeted advertising is nothing new. Every major cellular carrier collects usage data that can be used to target ads. However, these programs typically require you to opt in to sharing data rather than opt out. Want to make sure you’ve opted out of sharing your data? Jump directly to:

Personal privacy is the biggest reason to shut down ad tracking programs like this. While T-Mobile says it doesn't share any personally identifiable information like your name or phone number, it does share an advertising ID that's unique to your device. While this theoretically makes you anonymous, it's not hard to tie this data back to you. By combining different sets of "anonymous" data, advertisers, corporations, hackers, identity thieves and bad actors can often identify you specifically. Other carriers do more to anonymize your data when they do serve targeted ads: while T-Mobile shares detailed data attached to your specific advertising ID, AT&T and Verizon both pool user data rather than giving any individual user information about each subscriber. But AT&T and Verizon also offer "enhanced" ad programs like T-Mobile is doing — the difference is that you have to opt into them.

Advertisers can now acquire ad-targeting data from your cellular carrier at a time when personal data sources are being cut off elsewhere. Google plans to stop selling ads based on your browsing history and won't build tools to track you across its products to give you better privacy protection. And for Apple users, iOS will soon add App Tracking Transparency that will require users to opt-in to apps tracking them. Unfortunately, if your cellular carrier — not your smartphone apps, web browsers, or search engines — are doing the tracking, tools like this won't help. That means you need to pay attention to your carrier's privacy policy and opt out of their tracking rather than relying on your smartphone's privacy features.

Fortunately, it just takes a few clicks opt out of T-Mobile's data sharing program before it goes live on April 26, 2021. Here's how to opt out of data sharing for all major cellular providers.

How to opt out of AT&T data sharing

AT&T automatically opts you into data sharing that isn't as intrusive as T-Mobile's, but you should still turn it off to protect your privacy.

From the AT&T website

  1. Log on to your AT&T account
  2. Follow the instructions on the page

How to opt out of Verizon data sharing

Verizon automatically opts you into data sharing that isn't as intrusive as T-Mobile's, but you should still turn it off to protect your privacy.

From the Verizon website

  1. Log into your Verizon account
  2. Scroll to "Relevant Mobile Advertising"
  3. Click "No, I don't want to participate in Relevant Mobile Advertising" (and any other services you'd rather not participate in)
  4. Click "Save Changes"

From the My Verizon app

  1. Tap More > Settings > Preferences > Manage Privacy Settings
  2. Toggle off Relevant Mobile Advertising (and any other services you'd rather not participate in) 

How to opt out of T-Mobile data sharing

From the T-Mobile website

  1. Log in to your T-Mobile account
  2. Click My account > Profile > Privacy and Notifications > Advertising & Analytics
  3. Toggle off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me"

From the T‑Mobile app

  1. Tap the More tab
  2. Tap Advertising & Analytics
  3. Toggle off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me"

Mark your information "Do Not Sell"

  1. Go to T-Mobile's "Do Not Sell" agreement
  2. Log on to your T-Mobile, Metro or Sprint account
  3. Click Done

How to opt out of Sprint data sharing

From the Sprint website

  1. Log on to your Sprint account
  2. Click My Account > Preferences
  3. Under All about my account, click "Manage advertising and analytics preferences"
  4. Toggle off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me"

Mark your information "Do Not Sell"

  1. Go to T-Mobile's "Do Not Sell" agreement
  2. Log on to your T-Mobile, Metro or Sprint account
  3. Click Done

How to opt out of Metro data sharing

From the Metro mobile website

  1. Log on to your Metro account
  2. Click Account > Network and Location settings
  3. Toggle off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me"

Note that this option is only available when you visit the site from your smartphone.

From the MyMetro app

  1. Tap Account > Network and Location settings
  2. Toggle off "Use my data to make ads more relevant to me"

Mark your information "Do Not Sell"

  1. Go to T-Mobile's "Do Not Sell" agreement
  2. Log on to your T-Mobile, Metro or Sprint account
  3. Click Done

[Image credit: Big data watching concept via BigStockPhoto]

Elizabeth Harper is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering consumer technology and entertainment. In addition to writing for Techlicious, she's Editorial Director of Blizzard Watch and is published on sites all over the web including Time, CBS, Engadget, The Daily Dot and DealNews.



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