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Verizon's customer-tracking 'supercookies' connect to AOL ads

Richard Lawler, @Rjcc
October 6, 2015
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In the last year it's become known that Verizon uses "supercookies" (aka UIDH or Relevant Mobile Advertising) to track what its mobile customers are doing, but now it's taking a step further by quietly linking that information to ads from AOL (the parent company of Engadget, which is also now owned by Verizon). According to ProPublica, the AOL ad network reaches across 40 percent of the internet, and by working with Verizon's UIDH (Unique Identifying Device Header) it can track in great detail what apps people on Verizon Wireless use and what websites they visit. Unfortunately, beyond just serving up targeted ads, the information is also unencrypted and could possibly be used by others to track you. The only good news? Verizon subscribers can opt out, which you can do by following this link or calling 1-866—211—0874.

Because the technology works by tagging information sent over the specific connection to a device, it can't be avoided by simply using incognito mode or clearing one's cookies. You need to opt-out if you do not want to be tracked, and especially given its lack of HTTPS protection, we're figuring you should do that. According to digital rights group Access Now, Verizon isn't the only mobile carrier engaging in this activity, although last year AT&T said that it had ended a trial of the technology. To find out if your connection is being tracked, visit AmIBeingTracked.com while connected to your wireless carrier.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

Verizon owns Engadget's parent company, Verizon Media. Rest assured, Verizon has no control over our coverage. Engadget remains editorially independent.

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