Big data is taking a step back today as Verizon is joining competitor AT&T in rescuing its customer base from supercookies. I guess the exorbitant monthly fees we pay will have to suffice for now.
AT&T abandoned the non-consensual practice months ago, but Verizon had been content with using the cookies for years.
What are supercookies? The x-UIDH header are unique identifiers that track mobile devices. And, unlike locally stored cookies, these cannot be deleted. The system is injected out of reach at the network layer. Sneaky, and done without the permission of the end-user.
Verizon announced the move via spokesperson Debra Lewis. “As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus,” Lewis said. “We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs.”
“As a reminder, Verizon never shares customer information with third parties as part of our advertising programs,” she added.
Lewis was quick to claim the company never sells its users data to third parties, and that it listens to its customers and offers the ability to opt out of advertiser campaigns. So, you don’t sell the data to advertising companies, but you offer users the ability to opt out.
The supercookie exit is not live yet, but should be coming online soon.
“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,” said Lewis.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Verizon has been selling the information to marketing firm, Turn.
“New research shows Verizon’s advertising partner, Turn, using these tracking headers to re-identify users and reinstall cookies on their browsers — even after they’ve tried opting out of targeted ads or deleted their cookies. This is an egregious violation of users’ expectations of privacy,” said a petition from Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog group.
With both carriers backing down, it proves public pressure can win out. Technology is quickly outstripping the need for privacy, and it is up to the consumer to play watchdog for their privacy.