Following huge customer outrage, O2 has apologised for sharing customers phone numbers with every website users visited on the website and says the problem has now been rectified.
First noticed by web systems administrator and O2 customer, Lewis Peckover, the problem only occurred for O2 customers and only when using 3G or WAP and not Wi-Fi. While it still remains debatable if it was a breach of the Data Protection Act, it certainly angered many customers.
In a statement on its website this afternoon, O2 said: "We investigated, identified and fixed it this afternoon. We would like to apologise for the concern we have caused."
According to the network, it always shares mobile phone number data, along with information about the device you're using and which OS you are using with "certain trusted partners." However since 10 January this year in addition to these partners, there has been the "potential for disclosure of customers’ mobile phone numbers to further website owners." This was caused by technical changes it implemented as part of routine maintenance which resulted in this "unintended effect."
The reason O2 gives for sharing the phone number information with trusted partners is threefold. The first is to manage age verification, which manages access to adult content. Second, to enable third party content partners to bill for premium content such as downloads or ring tones that the customer has purchased and finally to identify customers using O2 services, such as My O2 and Priority Moments.
O2 says that websites could only access your phone number which could not have been linked to any other identifying information it has about customers.
The Information Commissioner's Office has been contacted in relation to the issue and O2 says it is co-operating fully. Ofcom has also been informed of the situation.