By Kenneth Li
(Reuters) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal on Friday called on AT&T Inc <T.N> to stop pursuing plans to offer cellphone plans partially subsidized by advertising that he said would undermine consumer privacy.
“Consumers expect that their phone and broadband providers are not spying on their phone calls and web browsing or using their private data for commercial gain,” Blumenthal, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey.
The request follows a Reuters interview with Stankey this week in which he discussed a plan to discount cellphone bills as early as a year from now.
Stankey said the company’s engineers were working on how “unified customer identifiers” could help tie together data sets across its portfolio that could help it better target advertising to consumers in the future.
AT&T said in a statement it had received Blumenthal’s letter and will respond.
The company is hoping to breathe new life in a concept that has not caught on in the past. Although various tech and telecoms companies have offered to discount or offer free mobile services in return for viewing advertising, AT&T is hoping that better user targeting technology would make its version of a service more palatable.
(Reporting by Kenneth Li; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Timothy Gardner)