learn to track

Phone Carriers Collect More Data Than You Think: How to Regain Control of Your Privacy

TLDR: Major US phone carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon collect vast amounts of data about your phone usage, location, and interests. Learn about the various privacy settings available for each carrier and how to adjust them to better protect your personal information, while keeping essential features like identity verification enabled.

Data tracking in 2024 seems inevitable. Whether you’re using an iPhone or Android phone, your carrier is likely gathering all sorts of data about how, where, and when you use your cellphone.


This month, T-Mobile quietly began rolling out a new tracking method called “profiling and automated decisions.” Spotted by Reddit users and The Mobile Report, the new option is enabled by default. While the company says it isn’t using information gleaned from such tracking today, it could be used later on for “future decisions that produce legal or similarly significant effects on you.”

But the self-proclaimed “un-carrier” isn’t alone. All three major US wireless providers collect data, and here’s what they gather and how you can turn it off. It is also worth noting that some of this you should want to keep on, particularly identity verification.

While we’re focusing on the three main wireless carriers that make up a bulk of the US wireless market, it is likely smaller providers and even home internet services are engaging in similar collections. Heading to an account’s profile or privacy page should help you figure out what is being collected and how you can adjust it.


You can check your AT&T privacy settings by logging into your account and going to Profile followed by Privacy Choices. The carrier has four main privacy toggles:

  • Personalized Plus: Uses data like web browsing and precise location for customization, including offers and ads. This data does not access or use the contents of your texts, emails, or calls.
  • Personalized: Allows the use of your data for automated decision making, including using AI to generate more customized ads and marketing tailored and relevant to your interests. It’s on by default.
  • Identity Verification: Allows AT&T to help non-AT&T companies perform identity verification and fraud prevention. This is on by default.
  • Share or sell my personal information: Lets AT&T share limited information to create, deliver, and measure advertisements for things you might like, including targeted ads. This is on by default.

Of the four, you can easily toggle off all settings, though I would recommend keeping identity verification on for all lines on your account.


T-Mobile’s privacy options are a bit more varied. To access the company’s Privacy Center, log into your T-Mobile account and then click My Account in the upper right corner, followed by Profile. From there, scroll all the way to the bottom and select privacy and notifications and privacy dashboard.

From there, you will see the following:

  • Share data for public and scientific research: Allows T-Mobile to support research initiatives for the public good, such as pandemic response and the development of new technologies. This data will be de-identified as much as possible before being shared.
  • Analytics and reporting: Takes data from your device, including app usage information and zip code, and combines it with self-declared data like age range and gender to prepare aggregated business and marketing reports. This is on by default.
  • Advertising options: For personalized ads, with the carrier collecting details about apps you download and how long you’ve used them, combining it with other data it collects such as your location and demographic. This is on by default.
  • Product development: Let T-Mobile use your personal data, including your precise location, phone numbers you call, apps, and websites you use, as well as helping advertisers make the ads they show you better.
  • Profiling and automated decisions: T-Mobile’s seemingly latest privacy option, appears to be giving itself the option to evaluate, analyze, or predict certain personal aspects about you. It is on by default.
  • Do not sell or share my personal information: Allows you to tell T-Mobile not to sell or share the data it has about you with other companies.

Of these options, I would recommend turning all of them off.

In addition to the dashboard, T-Mobile’s Privacy Center website details something called “phone privacy.” T-Mobile says that it uses information gathered from here to identify offers for T-Mobile calling plans, protect against fraud, and respond to emergencies, but that under this policy, it is not collecting your name, address, phone number, or the content of your phone calls. It also says it’s not sharing this data with other companies so that it could help them market their stuff.


Verizon has a host of different options when it comes to privacy. This can be found by logging in, clicking on account, then account overview. From there, select edit profile and settings and choose manage privacy settings.

From there, you will see the following:

  • Customer Proprietary Network Info: Lets Verizon use the information it has about you to sell you other services beyond whatever you’re already paying for. This is on by default.
  • Business and Marketing Insights: Takes information about location, web browsing, app/feature use, as well as your demographic, and then combines that with information Verizon gets from other companies to help Verizon create “insights.” This is on by default.
  • Custom Experience: Takes information about websites you visit and apps you use to help Verizon better understand your interests. Verizon says it does not share or sell this information with others. It’s on by default.
  • Custom Experience Plus: Combines the information gathered from the CPNI and Custom Experience sections so that Verizon can personalize its marketing and recommendations for you as well as develop plans, services, and offers that would be more appealing to you. This is an opt-in.
  • Identity Verification: Shares certain account, device, and profile data with third parties to help verify your identity and help protect you against identity theft and account takeover. This is on by default.

There is also a Custom Experience tab that lets you reset your Custom Experience and Custom Experience Plus options, and doing so will have Verizon stop using the web browsing and location data that it previously collected as part of the program.

Of all of Verizon’s options, I would recommend turning off all but Identity Verification. That should remain on.


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