February 3, 2015
Verizon users concerned with their online privacy will soon have the ability to opt out of the company’s mobile ad-targeting program, which tags customers with “supercookies” — or undetected code that can be used to track a consumer’s online activity. Verizon’s recent announcement to allow customers to remove themselves from being targeted or tagged with code follows a number of complaints from privacy advocates in regards to the company’s tracking practices and privacy standards.
The New York Times cited the following statement issued by Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis last week:
“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. 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.”
One of the critiques about Verizon’s cookie enabled ad-targeting program is that it makes customers vulnerable to exploitation by third parties such as advertisers.
“While Verizon allows customers to affirmatively prohibit the sharing of information collected by these supercookies, it does not allow customers to remove the supercookies altogether, doing nothing to stop third parties from exploiting their existence,” states a letter to Verizon CEO Lowell C. McAdam by a group of Democratic Senators of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
NYT reports there is a petition with over 2,000 signatures in favor of reprimanding Verizon for failing to disclose their tracking practices to consumers. The petition asks federal agencies to penalize Verizon because it does “not allow customers to opt-out of the tracking, and their current explanation of its use is deceptive at best.”
The company is being pressed to go one step further. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the same digital rights activist group responsible for the petition against Verizon, believes customers should have to instead opt-in to enable the tracking feature.