Bell agrees to curb tracking of mobile customers’ browsing habits upon request

If you’re a Bell mobile customer, you may or may not know that since late 2013 the telco has been tracking your browsing habits. It’s in Bell’s best interest to show you the most relevant advertisements on your phone, so the company keeps track of anonymized browsing data as a marketing tool.

This time last year, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) filed a complaint with the CRTC over Bell’s tracking of customers’ information. The consumer advocacy groups said Bell’s collection of customers’ information was “unprecedented” and a violation of the CRTC’s confidential customer information rules.

CAC said Bell was trying to ‘double dip’ by taking service fees from customers and then trying to sell information gleaned from their use of the aforementioned service. Bell does offer the opportunity to opt out, but PIAC and CAC said that asking Canadians to do so was “wrong,” as the behaviour should have been opt-in from the beginning.

This week, Bell changed its policies to state that it would not track the browsing habits of those that opt out. The Globe and Mail reports that previously customers who opted out would still be tracked, their information just wouldn’t be used to serve up targeted ads. Bell’s reasoning was that if customers opted back in, the collected information could be used as a reflection of the customers’ interests.

In response to feedback, Bell’s modified policy will see customer information deleted as soon as the person opts out. This change is retroactive too, so if you’re one of the 113,000 people already opted out , Bell will be deleting any browsing, interest and category information that had been stored for use in its RAP (relevant ads program).

Consumer and privacy advocacy groups that spoke to The Globe and Mail, including the CAC and PIAC, say that Bell’s tracking of customers’ information should be on an opt-in basis. Speaking on behalf of the PIAC, Geoff White said that there’s a difference between Google and Facebook serving up ads to users in exchange for their use of the service and Bell using the information of paying customers as a marketing tool.

Update: To opt out of Bell’s Relevant Advertising Program, head here and enter your mobile phone number.

[source] Bell [/source][via]The Globe and Mail[/via]

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