For Verizon Wireless, the term “supercookie” has nothing to do with Girl Scouts. Instead, it means paying $1.35 million in fines.
This week, the Federal Communications Commission announced the findings of its investigation into Verizon’s use of supercookies to track users’ online actions.
The carrier inserted “unique identifier headers [UIDH] or “supercookies” into its customers’ mobile Internet traffic without their knowledge or consent,” the FCC reported.
The investigation found that Verizon began using UIDH in 2012, but didn’t alert users for nearly two years. Verizon’s move violated the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which Verizon had previously tried to get thrown out.
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“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,” FCC enforcement bureau chief Travis LeBlanc said in a press release. “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.”
Verizon responded to the findings with the following statement:
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. We will continue to give customers the information they need to decide what programs and services are right for them.
The investigation comes with an agency-wide push to increase its role in protecting online privacy. Verizon has a three-year compliance plan that the FCC will force it to follow. The Washington Post reports that Verizon will only be able to use the tracking mechanism when users connect to its corporate family of services or unless the company gets customers' opt-in consent.