Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay a $1.35 million fine to settle with the Federal Communications Commission over allegations that it improperly used "supercookies". The telecom giant is now the only USA wireless provider that uses them, though AT&T; has previously experimented with the tracking technique.
For those that might not remember, a supercookie, which is technically called a Unique Identifier Header (UIDH), is inserted into Internet traffic and can not be removed like traditional cookies used by Internet browsers.
Verizon Wireless agreed to get consumer consent before sending data about "supercookies" from its more than 100 million users, under a settlement. While the FCC politely lauds Verizon's cooperation in the investigation, these kinds of consumer protections are precisely what Verizon was trying to stop when it sued to cripple net neutrality (both in 2010 and again last year).
Federal regulators and Verizon Communications (VZ) reached a settlement over the broadband and wireless-phone company's use of "super-cookies" that provide subscriber data for targeted advertising. Supercookies are persistent, are always tied to your Verizon account, and originally were implemented for all customers - there was no opt-in or opt-out, supercookies followed you no matter where you went.
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"By allowing the company to still offer opt-out for its own use of supercookies, the FCC is allowing Verizon to collect and use a tremendous amount of data in conjunction with its own websites". Researchers, however, found that Verizon partners could track users even if they deleted their cookies.
In October, Verizon said it would give the zombie cookie a new life as a way to boost the tracking abilities of its AOL subsidiary.
But privacy advocates said it was very hard for customers to block or remove the code, and in 2014 the FCC launched its probe. The FCC chairman has said that the agency will soon propose new privacy rules for Internet providers. In an emailed statement, the company said that the FCC settlement recognizes that it had already made adjustments to its ad programs that give consumers more choices.
Under the terms of the settlement with the FCC, the company must pay a fine of $1.35 million and adopt a three-year compliance plan.