Verizon Wireless gets slap on wrist for supercookies

by jovan1984

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — Verizon Wireless has been lightly fined for the use of supercookies, which are unique, undeletable identifiers (UIDH), for illegal use.

The Federal Communications Commission charged VZ with using supercookies to spy on customers.  The commission raised concerns that some of Verizon’s practices were in violation of the the Communications Act and the Open Internet Transparency Rule — rules that protect consumer proprietary information and guarantee transparency in corporations’ practices, respectively.

A UIDH is an ad-tracking tool that is used by companies to identify consumers’ actions online and subsequently deliver targeted advertising. According to a press release from the FCC, Verizon employed UIDH in December 2012 but did not disclose this information to customers until nearly 24 months later.  By then, customers fled Verizon in droves for archrival AT&T.

Twelve months ago, the Red carrier finally updated their policies on supercookies, and offered customers who remained with them an opt-out option.  That was insufficient to escape an FCC complaint.

“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,” said the FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief, Travis LeBlanc, in the press release.

Under the terms of the settlement, now Verizon must obtain consumers’ opt-in consent before sharing UIDH internally and with third parties. Additionally, the company was fined $1.35 million and is required adopt a three-year compliance plan.