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June 21, 2013 | Javier Ruiz

EE Dragging its Feet on Mobile Data Transparency

Mobile company EE has been quite open in explaining the sale of data analytics based on their customers data in partnership with Ipsos MORI. But we are concerned that they think the storm is over and can return to business as usual. We may need your support to make them listen.


EE has already met with ORG to explain how their data services work, how they aggregate data and what general legal framework they operate. For this, we commend EE on their openness and hope that it continues.

We asked EE for a technical meeting with independent experts, but have not received any reply. In order to reassure mobile users over their concerns it’s very important to establish the exact data EE collects, stores and uses for its data products.

The first step in improving transparency would be for EE to allow an independent technical check-up on their data collection and processing. Our proposed technical expert, Richard Clayton, who is based at the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, has carried out similar work requiring balancing public information with commercial and customer confidentiality. Richard Clayton did a similar study in 2008 with behavioural advertising company PHORM.

EE’s privacy policy explains that they collect and use a wide range of data, including purchasing habits and app use. They have also told us that their data products allow for cross referencing of location data with web history and other parameters. Clearly, there is a lot going on here and customers need more information.

On the 5th of June we held a public debate in Parliament on this issue, kindly hosted by Julian Huppert. The panel included representatives from EE, Ipsos MORI, the Information Commissioner Office (ICO) and Joss Wright from the Oxford Internet Institute. At that meeting Iain Bourne from the ICO made it clear that transparency is a fundamental principle of data protection and there is room for improvement in the way the companies explain to consumers what they are doing with customer data.

We may need your help soon to get EE and other companies to continue being open about their practices. They need to know that these issues are not going away and customers are more aware of what happens to their data.

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