FTC: Verizon customers still being spied on by ‘supercookie’ ad partner


Bad news for Verizon customers who opted out of the company’s ‘supercookie’ tracking back in 2015 — you’re likely to have still been tracked all this time by one of the wireless carrier’s advertising partners!

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Verizon ad partner Turn Inc. flagged by FTC

The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Turn Inc. after the marketer allegedly ‘track[ed] millions of Verizon Wireless customers, even after they blocked or deleted cookies from websites.’ 

For those who aren’t up on this story, Verizon was one of the wireless carriers that used so-called supercookies — unique identifiers designed to monitor mobile browsing activity that couldn’t be detected or removed.

Supercookies were so powerful that users’ browsing habits weren’t immune from monitoring even if they did a private or incognito browsing session!

After taking a lot of heat over the issue, Verizon relented and stopped the invasive practice in 2015.

Then in March 2016, the company agreed to a $1.35 million settlement for storing and selling customers’ info without their consent.

Verizon wasn’t the only carrier that used supercookies. AT&T did too, but they are believed to have stopped the practice back in late 2014.

What are the terms of this latest settlement?

The FTC settlement acknowledges that Turn Inc. continued to track web activity even after Verizon put policies in place that allowed customers to opt-out of supercookie tracking.

In addition, the FTC says that Turn Inc.’s initial opt-out attempts only worked for mobile browsers, but not within mobile apps as the company had said. 


Now Turn Inc. is being forced to provide a more thorough opt-out mechanism that will work across the board for apps and browsing. Turn Inc. will also be required to clearly disclose the extent of its data spying.

What do you need to do next?

As required by the FTC, Turn Inc. has put a link on its homepage that contains instructions for further opting out.

But it seems the marketer is making it difficult in a roundabout kind of way to get privacy.

For example, you have to download an app just to stop the tracking when you use other apps!

Furthermore, you should know that the opt-out mechanism for browsing is browser and device specific. That means you must opt out for each broswer on each device that you use.

Finally, clearing or deleting your browser’s cookies ‘may inadvertently delete the Turn opt-out cookie, and you may need to renew your opt-out choice for that browser,’ the company notes. Likewise, you’ll have to opt out all over again if you reset your device’s advertising identifier.

Could they possibly make it any more difficult and circuitous for consumers?!

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