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Verizon can't share web activity with advertisers unless you opt in

The company must also pay a $1.35 million fine to settle with the FCC.
Billy Steele
03.07.16 in Mobile
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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last spring, Verizon began offering its customers a way to opt out of the "supercookies" that track activity for advertisers to leverage. Following a settlement with the FCC, the wireless company must give customers the choice to opt in to the program rather than employing the tracking system by default. Verizon has to notify customers about its use of the unique undeletable identifiers, or UIDH, for targeted advertising. Only after users give consent is the company able to share any web browsing data with either third parties or within its 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," said Travis LeBlanc, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau Chief. "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."

In addition to the new opt-in policy, Verizon also has to pay a $1.35 million fine and implement a three-year compliance plan to settle the FCC probe. The Commission found that though Verizon had been using the supercookies to track user activity as early as late 2012, the company failed to disclose the practice until October 2014. What's more, the wireless carrier didn't update its privacy policy to include the use of UIDH or provide customers a way to opt out until late March 2015. The FCC noted the failure to do so was a violation of the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule. If you'll recall, the Commission fined AT&T $100 million for violating the same rule in regards to throttling unlimited data plans last year.

Here's what Verizon had to say on the 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."

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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