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Vodafone Plans to Subvert Privacy Rules with New Tracking Tech

Tracking at the service provider level will result in the same, knowing everything about you.

In a move that has outraged privacy campaigners Vodafone is testing an entirely new system designed to subert privacy rules by tracking users at ISP level in order to deliver targeted ads.

Vodafone's new process will circumvent rules on data harvesting by simply moving the process from your phone to their servers so advertisers can continue to track and target users despite what they might be doing to protect themselves against this by blocking cookies, masking IP addresses, or using various browser settings and extensions.

Blocking cookies on your phone will be useless as the new tech simply moves that process up a level. Internet service provider (ISP) will insert its tracker at the very first step of accessing the internet, you won't even know it's being done, and clicking the 'do not track' privacy option on your phone will be entirely useless.

Many privacy and security experts have been warning for a while now that it is not social media giants like Facebook and Google who actually have the most personal data on users, but their ISPs. These observers appear to have been right to be apprehensive about how that data may start to be used, specifically for advertising, by bypassing user’s choices made at the level of the web.

Vodafone calls its advertising ID system TrustPid. The tracker is persistent, while all customers will have a fixed ID. The telecom giant explains the need for such technology as its contribution to making sure that “free” (not as in, freedom, but as in, no-cost) part of the internet keeps on trucking.

Vodafone’s site for TrustPid claims that the only two “sustainable” models for publishers are either paywalls, or ad-supported “free” content. But users will be paying, and dearly: with detailed personal data harvested and shared at will. Naturally, Vodafone promises that there will be no misuse or privacy violations; it’s up to the corporation’s customers to believe it, and they will also have a chance to go over to the Vodafone Privacy portal and “manage their consent” to be tracked in this way.

Digital activist and European Parliament member Patrick Breyer is not convinced.

“The online activities of an individual allow for deep insights into their (past and future) behavior and make it possible to manipulate them. These personality profiles, which even cover political opinion, sexual orientation, or medical conditions, are a risk to privacy but also to national security, where officials can be blackmailed, and also to democracy, where elections and referendums can be manipulated,” Breyer told BleepingComputer, adding:

“A unique ID would allow for monitoring our entire digital lives. These schemes are totally unacceptable, and the trials should be stopped. Democracy is not for sale.”

But the determination of companies to sell you advertising is nothing compared to what governments want to do with your phone data. That is the biggest threat to your freedom by a huge margin.

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