Verizon Wireless hit with $1.35m 'supercookie' fine

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that it has found Verizon Wireless - Verizon's wireless unit - to have deliberately violated the privacy of its users.

Verizon Wireless is the largest US mobile telecoms company with over 100m subscribers, but failed to disclose the practice of using super-cookies in order to violate their users privacy from late 2012 until 2014, violating a 2010 FCC regulation on Internet transparency.

Super-cookies are un-deletable and contain unique identifiers that the company used to identify users so that Verizon and others could target their advertising based on the user’s web browsing history. The information contained in the super-cookies allowed advertisers to fine tune their adverts and deliver them to likely receptive recipients.
Furthermore, the configuration of the super-cookie allowed it to over-ride the Verizon user’s personal privacy settings on their browser, which led to some observers terming it a zombie-cookie.

Prior to March 2015, Verizon’s users were unable to opt-out of the super-cookie program even if they had known about it. However, under the agreement with the FCC, Verizon must ensure that consumers opt in to allow their information to be shared outside Verizon Wireless, and have the right to "opt out" of sharing information with Verizon.

FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said, "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."

Image source: Shutterstock/Ken Wolter