Two of the Largest Mobile Carriers Could Be Trading Your Privacy for Money

Two of the country’s largest mobile carriers could be trading your privacy for more advertising dollars.

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Verizon Wireless has reportedly been using “supercookie” technology to keep track of the websites customers visit, in order to get a handle on their interests. The benefit of having that knowledge is the capability to sell targeted advertising that the company could, in theory, use to attract more advertisers or to charge existing advertisers more.

In essence, that’s more money for them and less privacy for you.

Unlike traditional online cookies, “supercookies” are so advanced that it’s difficult for even the savviest Internet users to escape them. It doesn’t work to simply begin browsing the Internet in incognito or private mode.

While Verizon said it does allow customers to opt out of the program, the mobile carrier attaches a unique identifying code to Internet traffic regardless of whether one opts in or out. But the company maintains that it does not sell opted-out users’ information to advertisers.

A representative from AT&T said they are still considering whether to use supercookies and how to do so while maintaining their “fundamental commitment to customer privacy.”

“For instance, we are testing a numeric code that changes every 24 hours on mobile devices. It would be used to help serve ads on an anonymous basis. It plays a similar role to a cookie in online advertising. Some people are seeing this code from our testing when they visit test sites,” spokeswoman Emily Edmonds told TheBlaze in an email.

Verizon stopped short of saying it changes super cookies every 24 hours. Instead, the company said it changes supercookies regularly in order to prevent others from tracking customers. But the argument could also be made that the company changes super cookies regularly only to ensure it has sole knowledge of users’ browsing habits, which it can then sell to advertisers to ensure the maximum number of advertising revenue.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

All of this has raised numerous concerns among privacy advocates who say mobile carriers are the next companies to begin trading individuals’ private data for money – practices which technology giants such as Google and Facebook have already been accused of.

Others say that if the use of supercookies becomes more widespread, it could result in government intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, employing similar methods while claiming to gather intelligence for the purpose of national security.

Verizon Wireless did not immediately respond to calls from TheBlaze asking for more details about the use of supercookies within the company.

(H/T: Washington Post)

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