Verizon’s advertising tracking tags drew Congressional rebuke
Making good on a January promise, Verizon Wireless customers, as of March 31, can opt out of a targeted advertising program powered by so-called supercookies.
Supercookies are an identification number used to track and tag Internet users for advertisement purposes. Unlike regular cookies, supercookies cannot be turned off, deleted or disabled.
Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis told the The New York Times that privacy is a “central consideration. As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best in-class privacy protections remains our focus.”
“As a reminder, we never share information with third parties that identifies our customers as part of our advertising programs,” she said.
To opt out, Verizon customers can visit the company website or call 866-211-0874.
The use of supercookies and related technology has long been a concern of privacy advocates as the customer data can easily be repurposed by marketing firms, intelligence agencies, law enforcement and other third parties without the user’s knowledge or consent.
Senior Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Jan. 20 asked Verizon Communications’ CEO Lowell McAdam whether the wireless division would continue to use supercookies.
From the joint statement: “As a majority of Americans are turning to their smart phones to access the Internet, it is even more critical that we remain vigilant in protecting the privacy of consumers when they use their mobile devices.”
The letter came in the wake of revelations that Turn, an online marketing firm, was using Verizon Wireless supercookies to track the browsing habits of the telecom company’s customers even when they had specifically enabled their privacy settings.
In February, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) pushed for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Verizon’s use of supercookies.
From a Feb. 6 statement, Nelson said, “This whole supercookie business raises the specter of corporations being able to peek into the habits of Americans without their knowledge or consent. That’s why I think we need to get to the bottom of this and perhaps new legislation.”