Does Microsoft Oppose Verizon Spying? Verizon allegedly wants more control over WP8

A street test 'proved' that users are clueless about Windows 8, yet Microsoft Surface Tablet preorders sold out. Verizon Wireless was bragging about spying on its customers before rumors started flying that there is trouble between Verizon and Microsoft over Windows Phone 8. The wireless carrier allegedly wants more remote device management control than WP8 offers.

Lockergnome founder Chris Pirillo took Windows 8 to the street and randomly asked people to try it. Folks were confused and looked for the Start Menu and Taskbar. In fact, the experiment showed that "real users have no clue how to use Windows 8," reported.

The flipside is that Microsoft Surface Tablet preorders have sold out in the U.S. Surface is designed to work as both tablet and PC, with one version running Windows RT and another version running Windows 8 Pro. The Windows tablet is backordered up to three weeks, indicating that there are users with no worries about Windows 8. CNET tried to make sense of the confusing world of Windows 8 and mentioned WP8 deserves some attention because it will launch a few days after Windows 8.

Yet there may be trouble brewing about Windows Phone 8 (WP8) between Verizon and Microsoft, according to a Daily Mobile exclusive, which was based on an insider tip. The alleged spat is over remote device management that Verizon insists upon and WP8 does not offer. Now the rumor mill is churning and rumors are flying, but something not based on speculation is that Verizon and AT&T have joined forces against Microsoft to stop Do Not Track as the default privacy setting in Internet Explorer 10. Of course, plenty of others including the Association of National Advertisers are freaking out at the privacy-by-default possibility that means users would have to opt-out of Do Not Track, as opposed to opt-in.

The fact that Verizon is one of the companies crying foul about Microsoft's obstacle to snooping is not a big surprise, especially since Verizon was caught "bragging about spying on its customers," reported CITEworld. Verizon is actively selling its customers' data to advertisers, including "every URL visited on a Verizon Wireless device, every app, every download, every location, every change in configuration, text, phone call, upload or download." Precision Market Insights runs the "monitoring program under which Verizon Wireless collects data on the activity of its 94 million customers." If Verizon is your wireless carrier, then you are automatically in that spied-upon group unless you make changes on the Verizon Wireless privacy page.  

In fact, CNET reported that Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, had boasted, "We're able to view just everything that they do. And that's really where data is going today. Data is the new oil." There is some dispute about this type of privacy violation and if this might violate wiretapping laws. EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury said the law forbids wireless carriers from divulging "the contents of communications," so if Verizon is disclosing the URLs visited, then it "could run afoul of the Wiretap Act."

Verizon says the Precision Market Insights program is legal since it doesn't reveal individual customer identities. Are we supposed to feel better to think of it as spying on all of their customers' mobile devices? The CNET article points out that this aggregated smartphone data from everyone could be linked to third-party databases "about customers' gender, age, and even details such as 'sports enthusiast, frequent diner or pet owner'." Verizon Wireless further argues that customers can opt out at any time.

These are the opt-out privacy choices that you should select to stop Verizon Wireless from this type of mobile spying: Customer Proprietary Network Information Settings > Don't share my CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information). Business & Marketing Reports > Don't use my information for aggregate reports. Relevant Mobile Advertising > Don't use my demographic info for banners.

Lifehacker wrote, "It's pretty uncool that you have to opt-out to begin with, not to mention that the opt-out process requires three different actions. But, if you don't want Verizon selling that data, this will keep them from doing so."

There's still no official word if Verizon is having problems with Microsoft over WP8. Windows Phone 8 has been said to have "baked in cybersecurity goodness," but there's no concrete word from Microsoft about if it opposes the data collection by Verizon Wireless. WPCentral said it's likely "coincidental."

Like this? Here's more posts:

Follow me on Twitter @PrivacyFanatic

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 hot cybersecurity trends (and 2 going cold)