Turn, the online advertising company that has been criticized for using a tracking method designed to serve targeted advertisements to Verizon mobile customers, is doing an about-face.
The company has been blasted for “using a persistent numerical identifier that Verizon attaches to the Internet traffic of its mobile customers to recreate a history of a person’s web browsing traffic even if a person has deleted the record,” according to Reseller News. “However, Turn maintains there’s nothing wrong with using Verizon’s UIDH header to recreate cookies.”
The beef? While Verizon uses the tracking number — known as a UIDH (Unique Identifier Header) — for two advertising programs, the company has been criticized for “labeling” internet traffic that allows third-parties including Turn to use it for marketing.
“Turn uses the UIDH to recreate its own cookie, which is a small data file that records information such as web browsing, even if a person has deleted that file,” the report explains. “The practice — which has been referred to as a “zombie” cookie — isn’t illegal. But privacy advocates contend users may be unaware that they are still being tracked.”
Turn had come under sharp rebuke by media including ProPublica, which echoed the criticisms of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which demanded that Turn stop using Verizon’s identifier immediately. Turn is slated to retire the tracking in early February.
For its part, the EFF also called on Verizon to stop tagging mobile web traffic since it “enables any company to use the identifier in similarly abusive ways, some of which may not be visible to users,” according to the foundation’s senior staff technologist Jacob Hoffman-Andrews.
AT&T stopped assigning UIDHs to its mobile traffic in November.
In the meantime, users who want to stop online marketers from tracking them can use special software (AdAway, AdBlock, AdBlock Plus, Disconnect Pro, etc.), said the EFF.