“I’m sorry, but we have to respect our customers’ privacy. We absolutely cannot give out any information about their account without their authorization.” That’s what a representative from Kia Motors Finance told me when I called to find out why it was taking them so long to process the title for the car I purchased from an individual. Thirty-five plus days later and I am still riding around with no license plate on my car thanks to Kia mailing it to the wrong address. It is ironic how companies hide behind this platitude as a way to shirk customer service, given the fact that they are selling your contact information to anyone and everyone willing to pay for it.
I recently swapped cell phone carriers from T-Mobile (their price was good but their reception was horrible) to AT&T (higher price but supposedly better reception). So, I was not happy to hear that AT&T added a new option to its GigaPower fiber Internet service: privacy. For just $29 more a month, AT&T promises it WON’T sell your search and browsing history to advertisers. How thoughtful of them!
While there’s still some doubt about how private your information is even after you pay the $29, at least AT&T is being honest about how it finances operations. Most major cellphone carriers are more than happy to sell your information to advertisers and serve you targeted ads over their networks.
Here’s how to stop them:
Go into Settings, and then tap Privacy. Scroll down to Advertising. You’ll see a button that says “Limit ad tracking.” Slide to green. This will stop ad companies from tracking what you do with your phone and from serving up targeted ads.
Right underneath that setting, is “Reset Advertising Identifier” option. Tapping on that will eliminate the anonymized identifier linked to your personal data on Apple’s servers. This will make it more difficult (but not impossible) for advertisers to build up a profile on your browsing history.
To turn off the Google “AdID” system, surprisingly it is NOT in your Android phone setting but in your Google Settings app. Once you’re in Google Settings, tap the Ads link and then tap “Opt out of interest-based ads.” You can also see your advertising ID and tap “Reset advertising ID” to make a new one, as in the iPhone above.
To turn off Personalized ads in Windows Phone, go to Microsoft’s ad opt-out page, and under “Personalize ads whenever I use my Microsoft account,” click “Off.” You will need to be signed in with a Windows account to do this. Make sure you sign in with the same account you use on your Windows Phone.
What is the future of tracking?
Of course, carriers are wise to users wanting to block tracking and are working on ways to track you that you can’t limit. Verizon and AT&T have played around with “supercookies” that identify you to any website you visit. AT&T eventually dropped the idea when customers complained, but Verizon still does it.
One solution is to use Wi-Fi instead of your cellular signal for browsing, but that isn’t always possible. And of course, if you ever join the free networks on your cell, that could track your data and searches as well. Beware of what apps you download to your phone. If you look at the permissions, they almost all have full access to everything in your phone. Unfair but unfortunately the way it is if you want to use their services and apps. Be sure to only use well known apps that have many reviews.