In June this year, Verizon closed its acquisition of AOL for a sum of $4.4bn. Now, the company has publicly announced that it is to share customer data with the AOL Advertising Network in order to better target consumers. The company is to combine its Relevant Mobile Advertising and Verizon Selects ad businesses into the AOL Advertising Network.
Verizon shares data with AOL
The company was criticised earlier this year for inserting an undetectable Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) ID, which cannot be deleted. Dubbed “zombie cookie”, it tracks a consumer’s browsing activities. Following a probe by the FCC, Verizon let consumers opt out of the programme. However, it has just brought them back to life. In a blog post, the company says:
“The UIDH will be sent only to Verizon companies, including AOL, and to a select set of other companies that help Verizon provide services. These companies will not be allowed to use the UIDH for any purpose outside of providing the Verizon and AOL services.”
The UIDH allows advertisers to learn more about a consumer’s gender, age range and interests in order to target them better.
Privacy advocates are worried that the two companies are using trackers by default and information is being sent without encryption posing a security risk. Verizon rejected the claims stating that the ID wouldn’t be inserted when traffic was encrypted, e.g. upon launch of a customer’s online banking site. Karen Zacharia, Chief Privacy Officer, Verizon, adds:
“I think in some ways it’s more privacy protective because it’s all within one company. We are going to be sharing segment information with AOL so that customers can receive more personalized advertising.”
Customers are able to opt out of the programme.