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FCC catches Verizon playing with supercookies

When the FCC had ruled that Verizon must provide options to its customers to opt out of its usage of supercookies, Verizon played smart and used supercookies, by default, leaving customers the option to opt out. The FCC has now ruled that Verizon’s customers must opt in for the use of its supercookies, which must be made the default option.

FCC catches Verizon playing with supercookies
Last year, following a settlement with the FCC, wireless communication giant Verizon had begun offering its customers a way to opt out of its “supercookies” which monitors user activity that is leveraged by online advertisers.
The FCC has now made it crystal clear that Verizon must provide customers an option to opt in for the program rather than employ the tracking system and let customers opt out. The latter is currently its default option.
Verizon has to compulsorily notify customers on the use of these unique undeletable identifiers, or UIDH, used primarily for targeted advertisements.
It is only after the user’s explicit consent can the company share his/her’s web data with either third parties or within its own corporate family.
"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. Privacy and innovation are not incompatible. This agreement shows that companies can offer meaningful transparency and consumer choice while at the same time continuing to innovate," said Travis LeBlanc, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau Chief.
 In addition to this new opt-in policy for supercookies, Verizon has to also shell-out $1.35 million in fines and simultaneously implement a three-year compliance plan to settle the FCC probe.
As per the findings of an FCC probe, Verizon had been using these supercookies since late 2012. The company had filed to disclose the practice until October 2014.
Significantly, Verizon had failed to update its privacy policy to include the usage of UIDH or provide customers a way to opt out of the practice, until late March 2015.
While noting the wireless Communication giants compliance failures, FCC noted that not doing so was in violation of the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule. In May last year, the FCC had fined AT&T $100 million for the violations for the same rule although at that time it was for the throttling of unlimited data plans.

The following is what Verizon had to say on this matter:
"Verizon gives customers choices about how we use their data, and we work hard to provide customers with clear, complete information to help them make decisions about our services. Over the past year, we have made several changes to our advertising programs that have provided consumers with even more options. Today's settlement with the FCC recognizes that. We will continue to give customers the information they need to decide what programs and services are right for them."

Debashish Mukherjee

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