In late January, Verizon Wireless announced its plan to allow customers to opt out of its Unique Identifier Header (UIDH). The UIDH is better known as a “supercookie” in the tech circle, as it can’t be deleted by customers and is used primarily for advertising purposes.
Today, Verizon has finally updated its systems to allow customers to opt-out of the tracking mechanism. Customers can either login to their account online (by visiting this link) or call 1-866-211-0874 to opt-out of the intrusive tracking system. For its part, Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis said that privacy is always a “central consideration” when it introduces new features for its customers, and this move by the company is evidence of that philosophy.
“As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus,” Lewis added. “As a reminder, we never share information with third parties that identifies our customers as part of our advertising programs.”
However, there is still one big problem with Verizon’s approach to supercookies — the system is currently opt-out. How many of Verizon’s customers outside of tech geeks even know about supercookies and how they track users? A system like this should be opt-in for those that don’t mind such invasion of privacy. But of course, no one in their right mind would agree to such tomfoolery, so we “get” why Verizon takes this route — it just doesn’t make it right.
Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) agrees, stating, “Verizon should discontinue its header injection program, or at a minimum make it opt-in.”
AT&T ended its supercookie program back in November, with spokeswoman Emily Edmonds stating at the time, "It has been phased off our network. We have completed testing of the numeric code that would be part of any new mobile Relevant Advertising program we may launch.”
Despite its recent actions to allow an opt-out for supercookies, lawmakers are still pressuring the FCC to stick a foot up Verizon’s backside.