Telecom firms mine for gold in big data despite privacy concerns

Last year’s revelations over the U.S. tapping of phone and internet data gave telecoms firms pause for thought over whether they should sell their “big data” for gain, but the commercial potential could prove irresistible.

Although figures are scarce, analysts think selling data on mobile users’ locations, movements, and web browsing habits may grow into a multi billion-dollar market for the business.

Big carriers like Telefonica, Verizon, Orange and Singapore’s Starhub warn that they are only just starting to test the waters and pledge to market only anonymous crowd information to protect customers.

They are also promoting their big data products as being helpful well beyond the realms of advertising – for credit card companies wanting to detect fraud, for ambulance operators plotting routes to avoid traffic, and for public health officials responding to outbreaks of flu.

But while some carriers have decided to press on with developing their data business since former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures, others have started pitching themselves as their customers’ best allies in seeking to hide from any prying eyes.

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