T-Mobile (opens in new tab) will now automatically enroll its customers in a program that will mean their online and device usage data will be sold to advertisers. It's a move that's unlikely to appeal to many privacy-conscious customers and may well play a pivotal role when you're considering which network to go with when picking from the best smartphones (opens in new tab) out there right now.
The thinking behind it is that advertisers will be able to identify people who particularly enjoy sports, technology, cooking, and so forth, targeting relevant ads specifically at those who may be most interested. Of course, in doing so, it may feel a little like T-Mobile is keeping an eye on you and your browsing habits. T-Mobile is confident customers won't mind though with a spokeswoman telling The Wall Street Journal, "We’ve heard many say they prefer more relevant ads so we’re defaulting to this setting."
It's a lucrative move for the number two U.S carrier with more than 60 million phone users under its main brand and more than 20 million customers on prepaid cell phone plans (opens in new tab). In 2020, T-Mobile merged with Sprint so those users will also be affected by this change. In the past, Sprint only shared data with advertisers if the customer chose to opt-in to the service.
T-Mobile is far from the only company to increase its ad targeting. Both AT&T (opens in new tab) and Verizon (opens in new tab) offer similar ad targeting services with the choice to opt-in to gain even more personalized ads than before, but this is considered a step further as you'll need to opt out to avoid T-Mobile's tracking. Understandably, privacy groups are far from happy with the shift even though T-Mobile is adamant that it masks users' identities so that companies don't actually know who is browsing what sites or apps.
T-Mobile offers some of the best 5G coverage across the US alongside competitive data unlimited plans, but it's also already suffered from a data breach (opens in new tab) this year leaving the company looking a little unreliable on the privacy front.
Fortunately, it's simple enough to opt-out (if you know where to look). Open the T-Mobile app, tap More, and head to the Advertising & Analytics section before toggling Use my data to make ads more relevant to me off. Still, it's sure to all feel a little uncomfortable for many that they even have to do this themselves. If you're considering a change of cell phone provider because of this, check out our roundup of the best cell phone providers (opens in new tab).