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You can’t spend long on the internet without seeing people worry about how much data “big tech” has on us, but that’s nothing compared to ISPs and mobile carriers. These companies see a lot more of your data and aren’t shy about monetizing it. T-Mobile is used to taking liberties with your data, and it’s not slowing down now that it’s digested Sprint. T-Mobile has just officially launched its new advertising platform, known as T-Mobile Advertising Solutions. This innocuous name hides a rather sketchy business model: it aggregates the use of your mobile application and sells it to advertisers.
The specifics of the program will sound familiar to anyone who has followed the ebb and flow of browser tracking. T-Mobile uses network-level tools to track the apps people are using on their phones, then it anonymizes and aggregates that data to group you into various “personas” or “cohorts” as other platforms would call it. For example, if you regularly use Expensify and airline apps on your phone, T-Mobile might identify you as a business traveler for advertising purposes. This program has been in testing for a year under the name “T-Mobile Marketing Solutions”, according to The Vergebut it is now online with its new name.
T-Mobile says app usage is “the best indicator of consumer intent“, and advertising industry experts are optimistic about T-Mobile’s approach, although it sounds very scary. Should every click on your phone be tracked and monetized? I hope not. There’s also the issue of “anonymous” user data, which we’ve seen time and time again is never as anonymous as companies would like you to think. In many cases, it is possible to connect data to a specific individual. If there is a silver lining, the location data is not part of the program.
There is good news (but less for Android fans). T-Mobile does not currently collect app data from iOS users, fearing it may violate Apple’s privacy policies. But we Android users are fair game, apparently. However, you can opt out of T-Mobile’s program using its official “Magenta Marketing Platform Choices” app. Alternatively, the Digital Advertising Alliance offers an app which allows you to opt out of many trackers, including T-Mobile Advertising Solutions, which is listed under its former name of T-Mobile Marketing Solutions.