T-Mobile has positioned itself as a better alternative to other carriers over the past few years, but it also plays many of the same tricks as other networks, including selling user data. The network is now targeting advertisements based on app usage data, but there’s a way to opt out.
What Is T-Mobile Doing?
T-Mobile launched a new advertising platform last week, called ‘App Insights,’ which has been in beta testing for the past year. The service allows advertisers to target groups of T-Mobile customers sorted into generalized categories, such as “business travelers.” Google has been trying a similar targeting method with ‘Topics’ in Chrome, but even Google had difficulty balancing privacy and advertisements — the FLoC proposal that preceded Topics was prone to fingerprinting. T-Mobile’s data also doesn’t include specific locations or activity within apps.
T-Mobile App Insights tracks T-Mobile wireless customers based on the apps they have installed on their phones, which Wi-Fi networks they connect to, and domains (websites) they visit in a web browser. Domain data is tracked across all devices connected to T-Mobile, but app usage data is currently not sold from iPhones. T-Mobile said it is “kicking the tires” on collecting app usage information from iPhone devices, so that could be integrated in the near future.
T-Mobile executives told Ad Exchanger some examples of how the data is already being used. McDonalds used the service to track installations for its own application at the same time as Burger King and Popeye’s mobile apps. Wavemaker, an advertising agency working with T-Mobile, said that DoorDash could use the platform to more aggressively target customers that have competing apps like Uber Eats installed.
Many carriers have set up similar advertising networks in the past, but this is another sign that network-level data collection is becoming a popular choice in the wake of increased device-level privacy features. Ad blockers in Chrome won’t protect you from T-Mobile analyzing your internet traffic — only a VPN will do that, and even then, carriers have other data about you at their disposal.
How to Opt Out
Making matters worse, the main way to opt out of this data collection is to install another app: T-Mobile’s ‘Magenta Marketing Platform Choices’. You can download it on the App Store and Google Play Store, for iPhone/iPad and Android devices, respectively.
You can also install the ‘AppChoices’ app from the Digital Advertising Alliance, which allows you to opt out from many different advertising networks in one tap, including T-Mobile’s data collection. AppChoices is available on the App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Appstore.