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A press release published today by the FCC announced a settlement between the commission and Verizon over the company’s use of so-called supercookies, a system referred to by the company itself as UIDH. The system involved Verizon adding unique identifier headers into all of its customers’ traffic. This system was used to track a user’s browsing habits and build up a profile, for the purpose of delivering targeted ads. Initially, this was done without the knowledge or consent of Verizon’s customers.

The investigation revealed that Verizon was using this system to track its customers’ traffic at least as far back as December of 2012. It didn’t come to public attention until late 2014, and in December of that year, the FCC began its investigation of the company. The FCC found that Verizon was in violation of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which requires carriers to protect users’ privacy and only use their data for authorized purposes. Additionally, the FCC found that Verizon was in violation of the commission’s Open Internet Transparency Rule. This rule requires Internet access providers to disclose accurate information regarding their network management practices and terms of service so that users can make an informed decision.

As a result of the investigation, Verizon updated its privacy policy in March 2015 to disclose the UIDH tracking system to its customers. The company also began allowing users to opt-out of the system at this time. However the FCC did not find this sufficient, and this settlement imposes additional terms on Verizon. The company will pay a fine of $1,350,000. Additionally, the company must obtain opt-in consent before sharing UIDH with third-parties. The company will also need to obtain consent in order to share UIDH within the Verizon corporate family.

The FCC itself notes that this is the second action the commission has taken under the Open Internet Transparency Rule. The first was in June 2015, when it proposed a $100 million fine on AT&T for misleading its customers about the data speed on its unlimited data plans.

Is this settlement a just outcome based on what Verizon did? Leave your comments below.


Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.