Late last week AT&T customers received an email from the telecommunications company asking them to opt out of a plan the company has to share their Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) within the AT&T family of companies including the AT&T local and long distance companies, AT&T Corp., AT&T Long Distance, AT&T Internet Services and AT&T Mobility.
This sharing of CPNI data would also extend to un-named subsidiaries or affiliates of AT&T Inc that provide, design, market or sell these products and/or services.
AT&T leads off the email by talking about protecting the privacy of customers and how important it is to them and then they explain what exactly CPNI is and is not:
"Your CPNI includes the types of telecommunications and interconnected VoIP services you currently purchase, how you use them and the related billing for those services. CPNI does not include your telephone number, your name or your address. Protecting the confidentiality of your CPNI is your right and our duty under federal law. As an AT&T customer, you can restrict the use of your CPNI even within the AT&T family of companies."
So what will AT&T use that information for?
"AT&T companies that provide telecommunications and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service (which permits VoIP customers to both send and receive calls to/from customers with traditional telephone/telecommunications service) would like to share your customer proprietary network information within the AT&T family of companies for our own marketing purposes, including using that information to offer you additional products and services."
The emphasis is mine but I also would like some more specifics on exactly what CPNI contains as well to make a well informed decisions.
However, lacking those kind of details, it is good to know that we have the right to restrict the use of our CPNI, whatever it might contain, within AT&T.
You can easily do so by visiting att.com/ecpnioptout; calling 1-800-315-8303 and follow the prompts or call 1-800-288-2020 and speaking with customer service.
You will need your AT&T account number/Customer ID and billing zip code.
There is no indicated time limit or deadline to opt out of this sharing of your CPNI and you can use the above listed methods to restrict AT&T's use of your information at anytime.
So why do AT&T and other companies choose to use either opt in or opt out methods for these types of programs?
Well it depends if they want a lot of people to be part of the program or not.
For example - last year Microsoft backed off from taking away the 15GB of free OneDrive cloud storage from all users but a caveat was that users needed to opt in to retain that level of storage.
Since it is unlikely that everyone who had a free 15GB storage account on OneDrive would opt back in that meant Microsoft would be able to recoup some of the resources that were previously obligated for that service. A win for the company and for those who did opt in for retaining their original storage.
For AT&T and their opt out for sharing your CPNI data it would be the same result - not 100% of their users will opt out. As a result AT&T will gain access to that information on a number of user accounts and be able to legally share it within their company.
Users miss opportunities to opt in or opt out of these types of situations due to bad email addresses, emails that land in junk filters or emails that get buried in ever expanding inboxes.
Whatever the reason, companies understand the process and select their method based on the intended result.
As customers we just need to know how the deck is stacked and that it is just like in Vegas - the house always wins.