Verizon – User Privacy (2021)

Outcome: Successfully withdrawn

Verizon is able to track how long people stream music, play online games, or use social media. It can tell whether a user shops at high-end expensive stores, is visiting online dating sites, or what news outlets they spend more time reading. It knows wireless-device location and internet protocol addresses. In short, Verizon has legally permissible access to enormous amounts of user information. But simply because it can use the information, does not necessarily mean it should use the information.

In March 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued orders to seven U.S. Internet broadband providers, including Verizon, seeking information the agency will use to examine how these companies collect, retain, use, and disclose information about consumers and their devices.

In February 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed fining Verizon $48 million over location privacy lapses.

In July 2020, eight members of Congress wrote to the FTC urging it to investigate “widespread privacy violations by companies in the advertising technology (adtech) industry that are selling private data about millions of Americans, collected without their knowledge or consent from their phones, computers, and smart TVs.”

In August 2020, FCC Commissioner Starks sent letters to AT&T and Verizon seeking information “about the aggregation and monetization of sensitive consumer data that is generated for advertising placement purposes.”

In addition to Federal regulatory scrutiny and litigation, some states are drafting rules limiting how broadband-customer data can be used.

According to a September 2019 Harris-IBM poll, 83 percent of US consumers said that if a company shares their data without their permission, they will not do business with them.

Resolved: Verizon shareholders request the Human Resources Committee of the Board of Directors publish a report (at reasonable expense, within a reasonable time, and omitting confidential or propriety information) assessing the feasibility of integrating user privacy protections into the Verizon executive compensation program which it describes in its annual proxy materials. This proposal does not seek greater disclosure or information regarding cybersecurity (the criminal or unauthorized actions), but rather is focused on legally permissible and permitted uses of data.

Supporting Statement: According to page 29 of Verizon’s 2020 proxy materials, the Verizon Short-Term Plan included adjusted EPS, free cash flow, total revenue, and diversity and sustainability. According to page 32 the Long-Term Plan is focused on total shareholder return, free cash flow, and retention. User privacy and how user data is used are vitally important topics for Verizon and should be included in executive compensation plans, as we believe it would incentivize top leadership to respect user privacy, enhance financial performance, reduce risks, and increase accountability.

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