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Verizon Wireless will pay a $1.35 million fine after the company inserted undeletable ‘supercookies’ into its users’ browsing sessions without consent, reports Reuters.
Unlike regular tracking cookies, the so-called supercookies are much harder to delete and can’t be bypassed within private browsing sessions. These cookies can anonymously collect information about users’ web activity, either to be used by the company itself or sold to third-parties for targeted advertising campaigns.
Verizon was fined for failing to disclose its practices between December 2012 and October 2014, in violation of a 2010 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation.
As part of its settlement with the FCC, Verizon must now notify customers about its targeted advertising programs, giving users the chance to opt-out of its internal advertising and requiring an opt-in to share data with third-parties.
“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,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc.
“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.”
Supercookies were previously trialled by AT&T in 2014 and are used by other telcos around the world, but, according to PC World, Verizon is the only US wireless provider that currently uses the technology.
Verizon spokesman Richard Young said the company “gives customers choices about how we use their data … Over the past year, we have made several changes to our advertising programs that have provided consumers with even more options. Today’s settlement with the FCC recognizes that.”
Although it has had to pay a hefty fine, Verizon may now continue to use supercookies as the basis for internal and external targeted advertising campaigns, providing its users have opted in or out of the program.
Image: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com
Author Kyle Ellison, ESET