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Verizon's Mobile 'supercookies' Seen as Threat to Privacy

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Verizon Wireless codes known as "supercookies" are receiving renewed criticism.

The Verizon Wireless codes known as "supercookies" are receiving renewed scrutiny after it was learned an advertising software company was using them for its own purposes, without Verizon's knowledge.

Credit: The Washington Post

Long-standing concerns about identifying the codes Verizon Wireless uses to tag its users for advertising purposes have resurfaced after revelations an advertising software company was using the codes without Verizon's knowledge.

The codes used by Verizon, known as "supercookies," have been criticized in the past because, unlike normal cookies that track and record certain information about Internet users' browsing activity, users cannot delete them. The ID codes enable Verizon to track its users and sort them into categories that are useful for targeted advertising.

However, Stanford University graduate student Jonathan Mayer reported that Turn was using Verizon's unique ID headers not just to identify and sort users, but to regenerate its own tracking cookies after users deleted them. Turn immediately backed down after Mayer's report, but Verizon said advertising software company Turn had been repurposing their tracking codes without their knowledge, which has many privacy advocates concerned.

Critics say the incident shows unauthorized third parties could use Verizon's tracking codes to monitor its users without their or the carrier's knowledge.

Some have used the revelation to renew calls that Verizon and other wireless carriers be reclassified as common carriers, which would require them to follow much more stringent privacy regulations.

From The New York Times
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