If you're using a Verizon Wireless cell phone, and you value your personal information, call this number as soon as possible:
That's Verizon's new "Opt-out line for customer proprietary information." According to the tech-news website Ars Technica, Verizon has been sending out letters to tell customers that if they don't call the opt out line, Verizon will be able to share their personal information with third parties. If customers don't call the line, Verizon will interpret this as a tacit form of consent.
Not all information will be made public, reports Ken Fisher of Ars Technica, just "data on the calls you make and receive, and the services that you may make use of." Fisher interprets this as a move toward more cell-phone based marketing. Verizon could use the personal information to figure out which businesses customers call, making Verizon's in-house marketing better.
The larger issue involves the fracas going on right now in Washington involving the warrantless wiretapping and the surveillance of Americans. Ellen Nakashima reports for the Washington Post that Verizon has been turning over information to government investigators without court orders in "emergency" situations. "Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests," Nakashima writes.
That may be true. But the question is: whose role is it?
(Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the tip) -- Bennett Gordon
UPDATE: Brian Ashby, associate general counsel for Verizon, has clarified the company's stance, according to Laura M. Holson of the New York Times. Verizon claims that the information will be used for internal purposes only, "so it can better sell new products to existing customers."