Verizon is fined $1.35m in supercookie mobile ad tracking case

Verizon, the wireless telecoms provider, has been ordered to pay a $1.35m fine, after the Federal Communications Commission detected the carrier had been sending data supercookies to target mobile ads to over 100m consumers between 2012 to 2014.
Verizon fined for use of supercookies to target mobile ads
Unique identifier headers (supercookies) had been added to a customer’s mobile internet traffic without the consent of the user. As part of the ruling, Verizon began notifying its customers about its targeted ad campaigns in March 2015. Now, users get to actively decide if they want to opt-in to ad tracking or not.
Travis LeBlanc, Bureau Chief, FCC Enforcement, said:
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“Consumers care about privacy and should have a say in how their personal information is used, especially when it comes to who knows what they’re doing online. Privacy and innovation are not incompatible. This agreement shows that companies can offer meaningful transparency and consumer choice while at the same time continuing to innovate. We would like to acknowledge Verizon Wireless’s cooperation during the course of this investigation and its willingness to make changes to its practices for the benefit of its customers.”

Verizon originally denied that the ad programme intruded on user privacy. A 2015 study confirmed that supercookie tracking information could not be erased and accessed by third parties.
In addition to the fine and full disclosure agreements, Verizon will have to meet a 3-year compliance plan to prevent such practices in the future.

Nate Cardozo, Staff attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation, adds:
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“Today’s order will mean that other companies contemplating similar involuntary tracking will think twice before proceeding without explicit consumer consent.”

Verizon confirmed that it was committed to offering customers a choice in how to use their data, providing “clear, complete information to help them make decisions about our services.”

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