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In February 2015 the US operator AT&T launched an FTTH Internet service that includes a price differentiation whereby customers who do not wish to have their browsing activities tracked by the ISP can pay an extra $29 per month to opt out. This includes search history, ads seen, and links visited, but does not include data retained for law enforcement purposes.

Attaching a price to the value of personal data is a sensible and important step that operators can and should take to effectively treat data as a currency. It increases clarity and transparency for customers around why personal data matters to businesses.

Such initiatives provide the big data business with necessary transparency

AT&T’s innovative offer reflects the trend for telecoms operators to be clearer about the way they use and treat customers’ personal data. It introduces a powerful and effective way for end users to understand why personal data has a value to business, and puts users in the position to choose whether or not to trade their data for something. In other words, it is a proper application of the principle “data is the new currency.”

Although AT&T’s offer appears to be a first in the broadband market, telcos have been being clearer about the use they make of personal data for some time now. Ovum’s Data Protection Tracker: 1Q15 highlights examples of mobile operators striving to raise awareness about privacy and giving the customer more control of the way they share their personal data. Recent research by Orange shows that customers are starting to attach a price to the personal data they share; most customers are also aware that personal data has a higher value to businesses when they fit their customer profile.

If AT&T’s price differentiation approach works, other companies may also seek to compete on the price of personal data. More importantly, such initiatives are likely to provide the big data business with the transparency it needs to become more solid and customer-focused.


Further reading

Data Protection Tracker: 1Q15, TE0007-000867 (January 2015)


Luca Schiavoni, Analyst, Regulation

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