It turns out that you’re not just a product when using free Internet services. Even when you’re paying AT&T and Verizon for cellular service, you’re still being productized by having your communications altered without you knowing about it.
Both Verizon and AT&T admit to injecting a cookie-like tracker without your knowledge or consent into your HTTP request. A good summary of how it works is here. Thanks to Bruce Schneier for making me aware of this.
Here’s the question for advertisers. If you choose to respect the Do Not Track request, what do you do if you use Verizon’s Precision Marketing Insights? Is Verizon (and AT&T, once they launch their equivalent) passing along the DNT flag as well? Or are they stripping out records that have DNT enabled? And if they say they are, are they actually doing it?
As ethical advertisers, we need to consider the source of the data, how it is collected, the lineage of the data and what the consent and intent was of the person generating the data. Now intent can be hard sometimes. However, the other questions should be asked by us as marketers.
Takeaway: Don’t accept “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes data and leave the hard questions to the technical folks or the legal team. Understand where the data is coming from and how and why it was collected before you use it.