Lawmakers Don’t Like the Taste of Verizon “Supercookies”: FTC to Investigate

Four U.S. Senators have asked both the FTC and FCC to investigate into Verizon’s use of “supercookies,” which track mobile users, to examine whether they intrude on consumer privacy. The senators’ request comes even after Verizon agreed earlier this month to allow its users who object to data tags to opt out of the program so they will no longer receive them. In a statement made late last week in conjunction with an accompanying press release, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said that such an option is not enough. According to Nelson, “This whole supercookie business raises the specter of corporations being able to peek into the habits of Americans without their knowledge or consent,” and “that’s why I think we need to get to the bottom of this and perhaps [need] new legislation.” In the letter to the FTC, Nelson specifically asked the FTC “scrutinize all public and customer disclosures and information relevant to the use of [Verizon’s] supercookie by third parties.” Verizon has stated that it takes its customers privacy very seriously and that it fully intends to respond to the Senator’s letter.

AT&T, in November 2014, dropped its own similar experiment with phone-tracking tags that gave users unique identifiers, even if the users had opted out of mobile ad-tracking services. That controversial tracking program had also been criticized by privacy advocates who argued that tracking user information even if users opted out of the tracking was not fair. It will be very interesting to see what the FTC’s investigation yields, whether Verizon will abandon the program altogether like AT&T did, and/or if Congress will carry through on its threat of new legislation.