T-Mobile’s App Insights sells your data, but there is a way out
T-Mobile launched a new advertising platform last week called App Insights that allows advertisers access to groups of potential customers based on the apps they have installed on their phones. This program has been in beta testing for the past year. Users are sorted into different categories based on these apps such as “video streamers” and allows advertisers to target users based on these categories.
If this sounds familiar it’s because Google tried something similar with its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoCs) before it moved toward Topics. A quick look at Topics on GitHub shows that balancing privacy and data collection is delicate, to put it mildly. Will T-Mobile do it better? That remains to be seen.
On the App Insights page, T-Mobile points out that it “does not use subscriber location data and does not track individual activity within apps.” The kinds of data T-Mobile collects include what apps are installed when those apps are open, and even some domain-level tracking of websites visited within a browser. What’s not included is anything in iOS.
T-Mobile does not collect data on iOS users for a number of reasons, but mainly because the risk isn’t worth falling out of Apple’s good graces. Apple’s removal of cross-app tracking would make iOS data less valuable, and certainly not worth upsetting the proverbial (and literal) Apple cart. T-Mobile is “kicking the tires” on adding iOS users in the future, but for now, it’s playing it safe.
How to stop App Insights
There is a solution to all of this, though it’s certainly a good news/bad news situation. You can opt-out of T-Mobile’s data collection, but to do so you need to install another app. You can download T-Mobile’s Magenta Marketing Platform Choices app on iOS and Android that use that app to opt out. Another solution is to download AppChoices from the Digital Marketing Alliance. That app also allows you to opt out of many advertising networks, T-Mobile included. That app is available on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon’s App store.
T-Mobile needs to tread very carefully in these waters. It often positions itself as the “Uncarrier” and the alternative choice to AT&T and Verizon, but if it’s playing the same games as the other two, the value proposition starts to wane very quickly.