Press Release

FCC Secures Consumer Consent Option in Verizon Supercookie Settlement

March 7, 2016 , , ,

Today, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it has settled an investigation into Verizon Wireless’s practice of inserting “supercookies” into customer mobile Internet traffic. These unique identifiers, or “UIDH,” are used to identify customers in order to deliver targeted advertisements. As a result of the FCC investigation, Verizon will now notify consumers about its advertising programs and will obtain opt-in consent from consumers before sharing supercookies with third parties.

The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Today’s FCC action puts all broadband providers on notice that they can no longer hide behind vague disclosures about ‘information collection,’ or refuse to give their subscribers real choices when it comes to sharing customer information.

“Recently, carriers and their anti-privacy supporters have claimed that FCC enforcement would hamper ISP ‘innovation.’ The only ‘innovation’ this consent decree prevents is the ability of Verizon to collect information from customers without their knowledge, and to expose that information to third parties without customer consent. Customers that value Verizon’s targeted advertising can still participate, but Verizon can no longer force them to participate without informed consent.

“As the FCC moves toward a formal rulemaking on broadband privacy, it should consider the implications of what it uncovered in this investigation on children’s advertising. As the FCC’s consent decree shows, Verizon Wireless identifies information such as ‘device location,’ ‘apps and features used,’ and ‘demographic and interest information’ provided to Verizon or by third parties. This would easily disclose which device goes to elementary school with a child, and what games a child plays online. Parents may need the added protection of opt-in, rather than the lesser protection of opt-out, to protect children from inappropriate marketing by ISPs.”

You may view the FCC’s announcement here.