It looks like a couple of US carriers have been tracking a portion of their customers with something being dubbed “supercookies.” More specifically, Verizon and AT&T are tracking over 100 million customers with this new supercookie, a marker that allows the carriers to track customers’ in great detail. The supercookie allows the carriers to monitor which sites their customers visit and then keep track of their likes and dislikes.
Perhaps the worst part of this supercookie tracking method used by the carriers is the fact that there is no way for the customers being tracked by it to erase the cookies like they would be able to with regular browsing cookies. On top of that, there is no way to evade being tracked by them either, there is no setting anywhere on the customers device that would allow them to opt-out of being tracked and cataloged by these supercookies. How all of this unnecessary data is being stored or what kind of security it is being used to protect it is unknown, but it is something consumers should definitely be made aware of due to it being data essentially being kept about us without our saying.
Although, Verizon and AT&T have both said that they have taken steps to protect customer privacy, but at the same time they admit to the programs like this are being used for targeted ads. Customers internet browsing data being sold to advertisers for targeted ads is definitely not a new concept in the technology world, what we don’t like about this particular situation is that the user has no way to opt-out of being tracked. With almost all other programs like this the user has the option to opt-out of being tracked, granted, most of the time it’s difficult to opt-out, it can ultimately still be done. And what scares us the most about Verizon and AT&T creating a program like this is the same thing that is scaring a lot of privacy advocates, copycats will arise.
Before we end this article we wanted to end on something very important. Verizon did, technically, offer their customers a one-time opt-out option. The option appeared as a notification on their device, which Verizon has refused to discuss. The notification, we can almost guarantee, was very vague and didn’t make much sense to the regular customer, and even if they did choose to opt-out they were assigned a unique identifying code attached to all of their web traffic that was still tracked.
Verizon and AT&T need to stop doing this all together, but lets be honest, they won’t. So what they really need to do is be much more transparent about the whole program. Let users know why if they are being tracked and why, and above all, let give them the option to opt-out whenever they want.