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T-Mobile to auto enroll subscribers for data sharing in targeted ad push

T-Mobile next month is initiating a new program for targeted advertising, sharing customer web and app usage information with third-party advertisers unless subscribers choose to opt out.

A recent privacy notice, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, says the program starts April 26 and also applies to Metro by T-Mobile and legacy Sprint subscribers.

T-Mobile will share information the carrier collects including things related to website activity, and usage of apps installed on a device, enabling advertisers to generate more relevant ads based on customers interests.

For the new targeted ad push, T-Mobile says it won’t give information that is linked to subscribers’ names or directly identifies them to third-party advertisers. Instead using a masked device advertising identifier or other unique identifier.

Customers can opt-out of data use for targeted advertising and tell T-Mobile not to sell their personal data to third parties.

It’s a change for legacy Sprint customers, though the carrier had a similar program, but users previously had to opt-in to share this kind of data with third-party advertisers.

A T-Mobile spokesperson told the WSJ that the operator decided to default to the setting because “we’ve heard many say they prefer more relevant ads,” so the move helps provide customers with advertising aimed at their interests.

T-Mobile doesn’t share precise location data or Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) – the latter which is protected by federal law and relates to information about voice calling such as phone numbers called, date and time, and how long calls lasted – unless customers give express permission.

The operator isn’t using information from T-Mobile’s business, government, T-Mobile prepaid or Assurance Wireless accounts, or any data it knows belongs to a child, for advertising.

Privacy and consumer data came into the spotlight for carriers over the last few years, including fines related to selling customer location data.

T-Mobile also isn’t the only carrier that shares information with advertisers, as AT&T and Verizon have their own ad-focused data-sharing programs.

And AT&T and Verizon have made their own respective larger moves to get in on the digital advertising space dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook, though have not been met with great success.

AT&T made a push into targeted advertising in 2018 when it paid a reported $1.6 billion to purchase ad-tech firm AppNexus for one of the largest independent ad exchanges and later launched its Xandr ad company – first focused on addressable TV ads.

Last September, there were reports AT&T could be interested in selling off Xandr after it failed to meet growth expectations.

Verizon previously combined AOL and Yahoo! business assets to create its Oath media and advertising business that was later replaced by the Verizon Media Group.

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