Telefónica Deutschland explains plan to sell aggregated subscriber data to businesses, local authorities

Thorsten Dirks, Telefónica Deutschland CEO

Telefónica Deutschland clarified that it does not plan to sell individual subscriber data as part of a renewed effort to open a fresh revenue stream.

Cornelius Rahn, a spokesman for the operator, told FierceWireless:Europe that the operator is preparing to sell aggregated information based on subscriber movements to businesses and city authorities, but said the move would not see detailed information relating to individuals made public.

The operator clarified its position following the publication of an interview with CEO Thorsten Dirks by German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche that revealed Telefónica Deutschland aims to monetise subscriber data, which is made anonymous using an in-house designed three-stage algorithm.

Rahn explained that Telefónica Deutschland plans only to sell generalised information, for example relating to the number of people within a particular demographic who typically visit particular areas of a city or shopping districts.

“No individual user data is being sold,” Rahn said, emphasising that the information Telefónica Deutschland plans to offer is the result of internal analysis of subscriber’s movements. Such data collection is “nothing new” he explained, noting that operators have long analysed the details and that only the manner in which it is used is changing.

Dirks told WirtschaftsWoche that a German retail chain has begun tests using the aggregated user information, and assured the magazine that Telefónica Deutschland has learned lessons from a previous attempt to monetise the data, which hit opposition from privacy and consumer groups.

Rahn explained to FW:E that Telefónica Deutschland is offering users the opportunity to opt-out of the aggregated information sale. The operator is communicating the move to customers via a number of channels, such as in store or via social media, but Rahn said that a very small number have opted out so far.

“Because this method requires popular acceptance, data protection is one of its main pillars. It’s practically impossible to draw conclusions about individuals, because all data are subject to a novel anonymisation procedure, which has been developed in close consultation with German data protection authorities,” Rahn said, adding: “Telefónica Deutschland sells neither location data nor other data related to its customers, but harnesses such data as part of its new business area Advanced Data Analytics.”

Telefónica Deutschland already offers a similar -- opt-in -- service that alerts subscribers to special offers from nearby businesses, Rahn noted.

Dirks defended Telefónica Deutschland’s performance during his interview with WirtschaftsWoche. In a portion of the interview published in a Telefónica Deutschland blog, the CEO explained that the company has not lost any customers since its acquisition of rival E-Plus in 2014, and that the operator is improving its product mix in a bid to lure subscribers from rivals T-Mobile and Vodafone Germany.

For more:
- see this Telefónica Deutschland blog (in German)
- view the WirtschaftsWoche report (in German)

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