AT&T Shows Money Comes First with Pay for Privacy

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    Refusing to respect the wants of customers is a bad business plan

    Is anyone else disgusted that it’s no longer shocking to see a major telecomms provider standing staunchly against the wants of their customers? Online privacy is one of the fastest-rising influences of consumer decisions today, yet AT&T has gone full scumbag when it comes to its new broadband service. Unless you pay an additional $29/mo on top of your standard monthly your every move will be tracked, cataloged, and likely sold off to bolster profits even further.

    The Guardian’s Sophia Cope and Jeremy Gillula shared more info on this ridiculous scheme:

    AT&T reportedly plans to track and monetize its broadband customers’ internet activity – “webpages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter” – to deliver targeted “ads online, via email or through direct mail”.

    The tracking and ad targeting associated with the gigabit service cannot be avoided using browser privacy settings: as AT&T explained, the program “works independently of your browser’s privacy settings regarding cookies, do-not-track and private browsing.” In other words, AT&T is performing deep packet inspection, a controversial practice through which internet service providers, by virtue of their privileged position, monitor all the internet traffic of their subscribers and collect data on the content of those communications.

    What if customers do not want to be spied on by their internet service providers? AT&T allows gigabit service subscribers to opt out – for a $29 fee per month.

    Many will not even notice this options exists, and many more are already stretching their budget to get the high-speed ‘net they need for school or work, making this an even uglier move from AT&T. Not only that, but purely from a business standpoint this move reeks as well. With privacy a top concern for individuals and organizations of all kinds these days, many will likely avoid a service that’s proven twice already it’s willing to violate that right. And, of course, we can’t forget the bevy of bad press discovery of this “feature” has brought about.

    Bad show, AT&T. We’ll wait for Google Fiber.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]