Watch the small print in your phone bill

Have you given permission to your phone company to share your billing information and phone-use data with other companies? The answer may be yes - even if you aren't aware of it.

At least three phone companies across the US have sent out cryptically worded privacy notices along with bills. They alert the customer that if they don't want their personal information shared with third parties, they should call the company within 30 days.

The practice has generated outrage among consumer groups and state attorneys general, 39 of whom have filed comments criticizing the practice with the Federal Communications Commission. Under current FCC rules, which the agency is reviewing, phone companies have the right to share private data unless the consumer expressly tells them not to.

In the past month, SBC/Ameritech, Qwest, and Verizon all included such notices in their bills. Qwest recently rescinded the notice, saying it will wait for the FCC ruling. Customers who don't want their information shared can call the following numbers:

SBC/Ameritech: (800) 303-7260

Verizon: (866) 483-9600

Qwest: (877) 628-3732

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