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Verizon Says Customers Can Opt Out Of “Supercookie” Tracking

Verizon Says Customers Can Opt Out Of “Supercookie” Tracking
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

Verizon has previously been blasted by privacy advocates for spying on the Internet activity of millions of users, by way of a so-called supercookie tracking code which is virtually impossible to detect or remove.

Today, the company conceded that users who do not wish to be tracked for ad-targeting reasons will soon have the ability to opt out.

“Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services,” said Debi Lewis, a spokeswoman for the company, in an official statement. “We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs. We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the [“supercookie” identifier], and expect that to be available soon.”

Verizon says it does not share customer information with third parties as part of its advertising program. However, security researchers have previously demonstrated that it is possible to exploit Verizon’s tracking technologies to allow third parties to follow users’ web browsing.

The mobile carrier’s change of heart comes after it was petitioned by privacy advocates–including digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

“The telecom giant did not properly disclose the nature of the tracking header,” the EFF’s petition noted. “They do not allow customers to opt-out of the tracking, and their current explanation of its use is deceptive at best.”

Recently, the White House proposed a new online privacy bill designed to protect consumers from unwanted data mining. If passed, the bill will give the Federal Trade Commission the ability to penalize companies $16,500 if they share user information they collect in a way that users disapprove of.LD