Verizon has been watching you. If you use their mobile service, Verizon has been tracking your every move on the internet for the better part of the last two years, with no way for you to opt out. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good: the company is finally letting consumers turn off the trackers.
The news comes from the New York Times, which reports that Verizon is easing up on the perma-tracking after years of pushback.
Here’s how it works: Verizon appends a little header that you can’t see to all web traffic coming out of your phone. The tracker, called a UIDH (unique ID header) is consistent and permanent. Unlike regular site tracking code, clearing out your cookies and upping your privacy settings doesn’t do anything about these. And they build a comprehensive, unique, entirely trackable history of basically everything you’ve ever Googled or visited on your phone.
All the time. Usable by third parties (even though Verizon says it’s not).
If that feels to you like a privacy disaster waiting to happen — or really, already in progress — you’re not alone. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, has been calling for Verizon to halt the practice.
Customers have already been able to opt out of receiving ads based on the tracking information, but have been unable to opt out of having the data collected. That, finally, is going to change.
In a statement, a Verizon representative said, “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 identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon.”
There’s no official word on when “soon” might be, but hopefully it’s on the order of days or weeks rather than months or years.
Verizon Wireless to Allow Complete Opt Out of Mobile ‘Supercookies’ [New York Times]