Back in January, Verizon Wireless said they would let users opt out of a problematic universal tracking “super cookie” they had been using for years. This week, Verizon’s finally got their act together and the opt-out option is live.
As of Tuesday evening, the New York Times reports, Verizon’s systems have been changed to stop inserting the tracker for customers who opt out of the program.
Verizon Wireless customers can now log into the website and change the setting under “Customer Privacy Settings.” The opt-out there, to disable the tracking supercookie, is Relevant Mobile Advertising (although opting out of the other two, CPNI settings and Business and Marketing Reports, is probably also a good idea for the privacy-minded). Verizon customers can also call 1-866-211-0874 to opt out of the RMA program.
Consumers and privacy advocates have been pushing back on Verizon’s data collection for years. 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 done on your phone.
Until this change, even customers who had opted out of receiving marketing related to the tracking were still having their activity tagged. And research found that even though Verizon swore up and down that no third parties could access that data, those reassurances proved to be not entirely true.
A representative for Verizon said in a statement, “As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus.”
Verizon Wireless Customers Can Now Opt Out of ‘Supercookies’ [New York Times]