Following months of public criticism, Verizon announced on Friday that it will soon allow its customers to opt out of the pernicious supercookie which Verizon had been using to track all of its customers' activities on the mobile web or mobile apps.
The NYTimes reports:
In the past, Verizon allowed users to opt out of the marketing side of the program, but they had no option to disable being tagged with its undeletable customer codes, which critics dubbed “supercookies.” Some security researchers quickly illustrated that third parties, like advertisers, could easily exploit Verizon’s persistent tracking to continually follow a user’s web browsing activities.
News broke in October that Verizon was injecting additional code into the web browsers of its mobile subscribers. This supercookie, as it came to be called, was a unique identifier which followed each user as they browsed the web and allowed Verizon to track all of a user's activities - whether the user wanted to be tracked or not.
Ostensibly inserted so Verizon could better sell adverts, the supercookie ignored privacy settings, including the "do not track" flag, and could not be opted out. At best users could opt to forbid Verizon from selling the data, but they were given a choice on whether the data was collected.
Naturally this had privacy advocates up in arms, and the pressure also brought unexpected returns. In November, AT&T said it would phase out its use of supercookies, and now Verizon is following suit.
They issued this laughable statement:
Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services. As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus.
If that were the case then they would not have used the cookie in the first place, and the new option would be opt-in, and not out.
- Can You Identify Me Now? A Deep Dive On Verizon’s Data Practices – (AdExchanger)
- How Verizon’s Advertising Header Works (WebPolicy)
- Verizon Injecting Perma-Cookies to Track Mobile Customers, Bypassing Privacy Controls (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
- AT&T Stops Using Undeletable Phone Tracking IDs (ProPublica)
- Verizon Wireless to Allow Complete Opt Out of Mobile 'Supercookies' (NYTimes.com)