Verizon Wireless is letting users who do not want to be tracked for ad-targeting purposes to opt out of its mobile ad-targeting program completely. Verizon uses an identifier for ad-targeting purposes that is embedded in the user’s phone that cannot be erased by the user, often referred to as a “supercookie.” That the users would be given the opportunity to opt out of the tracking supercookies was first announced by Verizon director Praveen Atreya in an interview and the decision was confirmed by Verizon on Friday.
Some security researchers found through their research that third parties, like advertisers, could exploit the tracking supercookies to track a user’s web browsing activities. Previously, users could opt out of the marketing side of the program, but could not opt out of the tracking side. A spokesperson for Verizon stated that the company takes customer privacy seriously and is focused on creating products with the best privacy protections. Verizon claims that it never shares customer information with third parties as part of its advertising programs.
Verizon has been dealing with accusations from privacy advocates that the supercookies violate users’ privacy. The day before the announcement by Verizon, the company received a letter from four Democratic members of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation criticizing the company’s data security and privacy practices. AT&T has already discontinued the use of similar mobile trackers.
Some are concerned that the move by Verizon does not go far enough. Some privacy advocates say Verizon should have the feature turned off by default and require people to voluntarily switch it on. Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation began circulating a consumer petition asking federal agencies to penalize Verizon and its digital marketing software partner Turn for failing to fully disclose their tracking practices to consumers. The petition has been signed by more than 2,000 people to date.
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