Oh dear, O2.
The UK network got themselves in trouble today when a clever user discovered that every time you use their data network to access the web, they are sending your phone number to that website.
Why? Well, that’s the interesting thing: It’s not that O2 deliberately added the phone numbers, more that they forgot to remove it. Basically, O2 uses your number to identify you on their servers (for example if you’re checking your bill or using a service such as iTunes, and this data should be removed when you travel elsewhere – and as you might have guessed, it wasn’t being.
If this still doesn’t make sense to you, get ready for a crash course in the internet: Every time you use a computer, phone or anything else that’s connected to the internet, that device sends information to the place it wants to access. This information will include what the device is, what browser is being used, and a whole host of other information that would likely mean little to you and I – but the problem is, there’s no “right” way of sending that information.
If you’re still outraged, you might be surprised to learn how your own mobile provider changes the web around you by picking and choosing what they send to who. Vodafone for example, routinely disallow websites from knowing what sort of device you’re using, meaning that they can’t optimise to suit the phone – whilst adding a link to their own premium services.