Technology

Verizon to begin sharing ad tracking tool with AOL

Verizon will start combining its mobile advertising with AOL’s ad services next month, including the wireless company’s tracking tool that raised privacy and data security concerns earlier this year. 

Verizon issued an October privacy notice explaining its forthcoming advertising targeting with AOL, which Verizon purchased in May for $4.4 billion. ProPublica first reported on the new privacy announcement Tuesday. 

{mosads}The combined ad programs will link information Verizon gathers — such as gender, age, interest, location and browsing history — with AOL’s ad network. 

In addition to browser and other tracking cookies, the program will also make use of Verizon’s “unique identifier header,” which follows wireless subscribers’ Internet browsing in order to allow websites to identify the user and target ads. 

Following backlash by the public and some lawmakers earlier this year, Verizon began allowing subscribers to completely opt out of the tracking.

Civil liberties advocates had raised concerns about the tracking tool, warning that third parties could exploit and piggyback off it even when users thought they had turned it off. 

Verizon says its combination with AOL will provide more targeted advertising, will link customer’s browsing and app history and will attempt to target ads to people using multiple devices. 

“We do not share information that identifies you personally as part of these programs other than with vendors and partners who do work for us,” Verizon wrote in its privacy notice. “We require that these vendors and partners protect the information and use it only for the services they are providing us.”

Verizon told ProPublica that it believed its pairing with AOL could increase privacy protection, because much of the ad targeting would be done within one company.  

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