Verizon Website Visitors Tracked Across Internet, Data Sold

verizon tracking cookies
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…if your computer is infected (and that really is the best term for it) with the Verizon cookie…

Verizon Wireless has announced that it will be adding cookies to the web browser of anyone who visits the Verizon Wireless website, and then Verizon will track you across the web, and sell the data it collects on you to marketers. What’s more, they are selling the data to marketers to whom they are giving marketing access to your Verizon Wireless device!

In other words, if your computer is infected (and that really is the best term for it) with the Verizon cookie, and you then go to Amazon and look at pots and pans, don’t be surprised if you see ads for cookware showing up on your Verizon mobile phone!

Of course, Verizon is not the first company to do this; nearly 10 years ago we reported that Yahoo was using cookies called ‘web beacons’ to do exactly the same thing.

However, to the best of our knowledge, Verizon is the first company to then sell the data so that companies can put ads on their own customers’ mobile devices.

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It’s also notable that whereas Yahoo, for example, does not charge their users for their services (email, etc.), and so a case can be made that their users can’t really complain when Yahoo tries to find a way to still make money from the users of their free service, Verizon’s customers pay for Verizon service. So this is Verizon double-dipping, and being darned sneaky about it.

Then again, Verizon has a long history of openly not giving a damn about their customers, as evidenced by penultimate Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg complaining that “customers want so much”.

In fact, in an interview with the LA Times, Verizon spokesperson Debra Lewis both acknowledged that Verizon does not give any explicit warning to users before downloading the cookie to the user’s home computer, and also acknowledged that these marketers have the telephone numbers of the Verizon wireless customers they are targetting.

Said Lewis, “Some people may want to see advertising that’s more relevant.”

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Keep telling yourself that, Verizon.

The second-best way to thwart these things is to turn cookies off in your browser. We say the second-best, because with the advent of zombie cookies, and super cookies, flash cookies, and non-cookie tracking, simply turning off your browser cookies is no guarantee.

The first best way to thwart the Verizon tracking cookies? Don’t go to the Verizon site.

Here is the disclosure from the Verizon site, helpfully buried so deeply that the only way we found it was by doing a Google search for the wording of the notice. To make it easier for you, the Verizon notice of “relevant mobile advertising program enhancement is reprinted here:

Verizon Relevant Mobile Advertising Program Enhancement

At Verizon Wireless, your privacy is our priority. Our Privacy Policy has details about information we collect and how we use it. We’re enhancing our Relevant Mobile Advertising program in a way that can help marketers reach you with messages that may be more interesting to you.

In addition to the customer information that’s currently part of the program, we will soon use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites. This identifier may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to websites from your desktop computer to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network.

Information that identifies you personally is not shared outside of Verizon as part of this program.

You have a choice about whether to participate in this marketing program. These FAQs provide more information about the Relevant Mobile Advertising program. Go to our privacy choices page to notify us if you do not want to participate.

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