Verizon Wireless announced that it is going to allow users to opt out of being tracked by “super cookies”.
Cookies are tiny tracking devices with bits of data that are sent from a website’s server to your browser and deposited in your computer, tablet or smartphone.
According to a Verizon spokeswoman, the company is going to be rolling out an opt-out provision “soon.”
These “super cookies” focus on gathering user data on mobile web browsing and it has been the subject of attention because it is not easy for users who don’t want to be tracked to opt out.
Last year the Electronic Frontier Foundation said the following referring to the super cookies:
“It allows third-party advertisers and websites to assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors’ web browsing habits without their consent. In fact, it functions even if you use a private browsing mode or clear your cookies.”
Last November AT&T said that it would phase out the use of super cookies. Verizon has been criticzed by many for not doing the same.
However, the company has finally given in to pressure to give users an option to not be tracked by the cookies.
“Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services,” Verizon said today. “As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus.”
“We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs,” Verizon continued. “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.”
The way that Verizon tracks user activity is unlike normal Web cookies, it is included in an HTTP header called X-UIDH.
According to the EEF, the X-UIDH “is tied to a data plan, so anyone who browses the Web through a hotspot, or shares a computer that uses cellular data, gets the same X-UIDH header as everyone else using that hotspot or computer.”
“That means advertisers may build a profile that reveals private browsing activity to coworkers, friends, or family through targeted advertising,”