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Wanted: Chief Sanity Officer at Verizon

The company didn't think it was anything extraordinary but a plan to share customer data has predictably boomeranged.

Go figure.

All those smart and savvy managers and nobody at Verizon Wireless was able to prevent the brass from stepping into a very avoidable public relations mess.

The source of the kerfuffle: a letter informing customers that Verizon planned to "begin sharing information from their calling records with its affiliates, agents and parent companies."

The official explanation offered up is that the company only seeks to share the information between corporate divisions, the idea being to better sell new products to the install base.

No doubt Verizon is keen on upselling its existing customers. The telco types are salivating over the huge potential for mobile advertising. But privacy advocates will have a hard time swallowing that explanation. They're already nervous about how personal information winds up getting used by corporations these days, and this incident will only deepen their suspicion.

In this particular instance, the data can't get shared without your OK. What's more, Verizon says the information won't be traced back to an individual name or address. Still, it's creepy to learn that your phone company intends to share statistics on the number and origin of calls with other branches of the corporate family. Knowing the data will only appear in the aggregate isn't much solace. Maybe in another time and place, but definitely not in this day and age.