On Monday, Verizon Wireless and the Federal Communications Commission (also known as the FCC), agreed to a settlement over Verizon’s use of “SuperCookies” for targeting advertisements. Verizon will be paying a fine of about $1.35 million due to this privacy violation. They also agreed to a three-year consent decree. Verizon used supercookies to target ads to their users, which customers were able to opt out of. However, these supercookies were able to override the customers privacy settings that were set in web browsers. This is where things got bad for Verizon. As that does violate the privacy of their nearly 100 million customers.
FCC also noted that Verizon did not disclose this practice from 2012 to 2014. The commission also noted that it violated a 2010 FCC regulation on internet transparency. Customers are still able to opt out of the supercookies tracking, however they are not automatically opted into the use of supercookies. This is a pretty important thing, as ads are becoming more and more beneficial to carriers like Verizon. Seeing as Verizon bought AOL last year, and is looking to buy Yahoo this year, advertising has become a big part of their business.
The big difference between the traditional cookie, which sites do use to track where you’ve been and where you’re going, is that this supercookie does not change and is tied to the wireless device. So once you use your shiny new Droid Turbo 2 from Verizon, you have a supercookie associated with everything done with that device. What it allows Verizon to do is, send you targeted ads, which will in-turn make you more likely to click on those ads and drive in more revenue to the company.
The FCC has been investigating Verizon for this supercookie issue since 2014. The commission found that Verizon has been using them since December 2012 at the earliest. However they failed to inform their customers of this until around October 2014. According to the findings by the FCC. The issue the FCC had here was not the use of supercookies, but the transparency. The commission wants Verizon, and other communication companies to communicate better with their customers. With tracking items like supercookies, Verizon should have been a bit more transparent that they are indeed tracking their customers. Instead of waiting nearly two years.