Cookie Monster: Verizon Will Fork Over $1.35 Million to Pay ‘Supercookie’ Tracking Fine

verizon_logo“Verizon will pay a $1.35 million fine over its use of ‘supercookie’ technology that the government said followed phone customers on the Internet without their permission. Verizon will also have to get an explicit “yes” from customers for some kinds of tracking.”

That news was first confirmed by CBS, which noted that “supercookies” earned the moniker by being from hard to near-impossible to block.

“Verizon uses them to deliver targeted ads to cellphone customers. The company wants to expand its advertising and media business and bought AOL for its digital ad technology in 2015,” the network news outlet confirmed.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wasn’t happy. Mostly because Verizon began using the supercookies in December, 2012, but didn’t disclose the program until October 2014.

“Consumers care about privacy and should have a say in how their personal information is used, especially when it comes to who knows what they’re doing online,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a press release.

The FCC settlement says consumers now must opt in to letting Verizon share data with a third party.

Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog that had been critical of the supercookies, said the settlement was an “unqualified win” for consumers. “Today’s order will mean that other companies contemplating similar involuntary tracking will think twice before proceeding without explicit consumer consent,” he wrote in an email.

Why did Verizon use this controversial technology?

“Supercookie tracking allowed it to help advertisers offer more targeted advertising, CNET reports,” according to CBS. “But when privacy and consumer advocates started to call out against this practice, it caught the eye of the FCC. A 2015 study revealed that supercookie tracking information couldn’t be erased and could be accessed by third parties, even if a user removed his or her browser history from a mobile phone browser.”