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Verizon might be collecting your browsing history and here’s how to stop it

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Verizon says it’s to better “understand your interests”

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Verizon might be collecting information about your browsing history, location, apps, and your contacts, all in the name of helping the company “understand your interests,” first spotted by Input. The program, which Verizon appears to automatically opt customers into, is called Verizon Custom Experience and its controls lay buried in the privacy settings on the My Verizon app.

The program introduces two different options that appear in the app, Custom Experience and Custom Experience Plus, each of which varies in terms of invasiveness. Verizon provides additional information about both settings within the app, as well as on a FAQ page on its website. It appears that the Custom Experience option is a stripped-down version of Custom Experience Plus, and as Verizon states directly in the app, it helps Verizon “personalize” its “communication with you” and “give you more relevant product and service recommendations” by using “information about websites you visit and apps you use on your mobile device.”

Meanwhile, Custom Experience Plus has the same stated purpose — to help Verizon provide you with a more “personalized” experience. However, it not only uses information about the websites and apps you use on your mobile device, but it also says it uses your “device location,” along with “phone numbers you call or that call you” to help Verizon “better understand your interests.” This also includes your CPNI, which tracks the times and duration of your calls, and because Verizon is your wireless network provider, it can track your location even if you’ve turned off location services on your phone.

As Verizon explains on its site, it might use your information to, say, present you with an offer that includes music content, or give you a music-related option in its Verizon Up reward program if it knows you like music. Verizon explicitly states that for the more invasive Customer Experience Plus tracking, you “must opt-in to participate and you can change your choice at any time.” Signing up for those Up Rewards, or other promotions with consequences buried in the fine print may have opted customers in unknowingly.

After checking the privacy settings on my own app, I found that “Custom Experience” and “Custom Experience Plus” were both already toggled on. I don’t recall ever turning either of these features on, or being asked about it. As Andrew Paul of Input notes, he only discovered the feature after mistakenly opening a promotional email from Verizon that describes the new program.

To opt-out of the Custom Experience altogether, open your My Verizon app, and then hit the gear icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Scroll down and select “Manage privacy settings” beneath the “Preferences” heading. On the next page, toggle off “Custom Experience” and “Custom Experience Plus.” To erase the information that Verizon has already collected about you through the program, tap “Custom Experience Settings,” and hit “Reset.” The company says that it won’t sell your information to advertisers and that it will “use it only for Verizon purposes,” but it’s still unnerving either way.

In April, T-Mobile started automatically enrolling users in a program that shares your data with advertisers unless you manually opt-out from your privacy settings. On AT&T’s privacy center, the company says that it collects web and browsing information, along with the apps you use, and that you can manage these settings from AT&T’s site.

Correction December 6th, 1:30PM ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Verizon app is collecting data. The Verizon network is collecting the data, but you can control your participation via the app. We regret the error.