The state’s largest phone company has junked its controversial plan to share customer information with other branches of the company. Qwest V-P Chuck Ward says the plan was to offer customers other services they don’t have.He says given all the turmoil and customer complaints, Qwest will back up and let the FCC rule on such policies. The Federal Communications Commission began last September to make rules on sharing customer information and may be done later this year. Qwest is now trying to calm a storm of criticism by saying it’s the first phone company to halt in-company info sharing until the rulemaking’s complete. He says communication with customers created confusion so Qwest will step back until it knows the rules. Ward says the goal of sharing info with other Qwest divisions was to help get customers the services they don’t have yet.He says banks and insurance companies do it, and he likes his grocery card that gives instant coupons, which is the kind of help the phone company contemplated. Ward says telemarketing works, or nobody would do it. Amber Hard with Iowa Public Interest Research Group says customers are starting to see “opt out” forms that let you request your information be kept private. If you don’t use the formthe company has the right to use your info by sharing it with their own branches or outside companies. Hard says her organization wants to see “opt-in” rules that forbid such use unless a customer okays it.She says if info belongs to the customer, they should have authority to say if it’s used, and her group thinks that should be their right.
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