ITEMS OF INTEREST #1 – WEEK 29 OF 2018

Hello, to our loyal readers.  It’s time to talk a bit about items of interest during the week – and I’ll be doing them in two installments this week.  This is the first installment and here are the items:

1 – Colleges/universities are taking a new approach to their recruitment procedures these days.  They’re taking a page from corporate retailers’ approach in analyzing consumer databases for targeted ads.  For example, Houston Baptist University (ref. WSJ article) hired a higher education consulting firm to analyze a vast consumer data base with the purpose of identifying potential applicants the same way retailers find shoppers.  The consultants created a “demographic and psychographic [whatever that means] database” of Houston’s enrolled students and found that a high percentage had recreational interests in boating and fishing, also liked to travel, and many had children – so they had packed schedules.  (Sounds like just about your average Joe in a town like Houston! – But, whatever.) So, the school’s next Facebook advertisement used a picture of a woman fishing, with her children – meant to suggest that adults could both go to school and have time for their family.  No data were provided on the results of the advertising campaign – but I’m sure the consultants got paid for their efforts, regardless.

2 – Cellphone carriers usually ask for the permission of customers before sharing their addresses or exposing them to promotional emails.  But one particular bit of information – the phone’s current location – falls in a different category somehow and its permissions are left to third party providers like Securus Technologies and 3Cinteractive Corp.  Most of the major carriers rely on those firms to confirm that they have secured the customer’s permission before handing over the data.  There was a revelation earlier this year that Securus, a prison phone operator, had breached that trust.  It is believed (ref. Professor Blake Reid, University of Colorado Law School) that the “chained consent” violates Section 222 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which makes phone call records subject to privacy protections. Professor Reid cites Securus as the most blatant example of a company that violates the Telecommunications Act because it used its website as an investigative tool with little oversight.  In 2007, the FCC imposed new broadband rules that left location data gathered from internet service providers outside of Section 222 strictures.  Therein, the apparent green light to carriers for monetizing customer location data.  As a result of the recent outcry, Verizon has agreed to “wind down” these disclosing relationships.

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