Verizon creating opt-out for tracking ‘supercookie’

Verizon on Friday said it would allow mobile subscribers to completely opt out of an online tracking tool that has raised privacy concerns among civil libertarians and Senate Democrats. 

The company said it is working on the update and that a full opt-out to its so-called supercookie would be available soon. The statement came a day after a group of Senate Democrats on the Commerce Committee sent a letter to the company demanding answers. 

{mosads}The tool Verizon employs uses a unique identifier that follows wireless subscribers’ Internet browsing in order to allow websites to identify the user. The tool — known as a Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) — helps Verizon target certain ads to specific demographics.

The phone giant said it takes customer privacy “seriously,” and will continue to focus on protections as it expands its advertising. 

“We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs. We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon,” the company said in a statement. “As a reminder, Verizon never shares customer information with third parties as part of our advertising programs.”

AT&T ended a similar practice last year. 

Verizon currently allows users to disable the feature for its own advertising, but the unique identifier continues to accompany online browsing on unencrypted websites. Civil liberties advocates raised concerns about the tracking tool last year, warning that third parties could exploit it to track users, even when customers have opted out of the Verizon ad program.

Recent reports uncovered that a third-party advertiser was piggybacking on the Verizon tool as advocates warned. That company, Turn, quickly announced it would stop using the technique.

The Democrats’ letter pressed the company on how long it knew about Turn’s use of the tool and whether other third-parties are using it as well. They also asked if the company plans to continue using the supercookie. 

Verizon did not comment on the letter. But on its FAQ page, it said it continues to examine the program and welcomes “discussion on the issue.” 

Tags Privacy supercookie Verizon

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