Privacy Misbehavior

Andrea Peterson of The Washington Post has a warning.

Recall that ‘way last November, Verizon was exposed as using a supercookie that they’d developed for the purpose: it sits on your cell phone and tracks, ostensibly for their own use, your cell usage (supposedly limited to your use on the Internet). And you can’t delete it.

It turns out that Turn, an online advertising company that works with Google and Facebook,

uses [the Verizon supercookie] to collect data that makes it easier for advertisers to place targeted online ads, according to the researchers.

Verizon says they’re “looking into this,” but they don’t say they’re putting a stop to it.

We are evaluating how third parties are using the UIDH in this evolving ecosystem and considering any appropriate response[.]

Peterson suggests that

Turn’s use of the identifier highlights how data about someone’s online tracking practices can sometimes be deployed beyond its original intent—making it harder than ever for consumers to control who has knowledge about their online activities.

And

Turn’s General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Max Ochoa, confirmed Mayer’s analysis of how its program worked in an interview with The Post.

Ochoa also thinks this is perfectly jake [emphasis his].

Clearing cookies is not a reliable way for a user to express their desire not to receive tailored advertising….

It is vital to note that clearing a cookie cache is not a widely recognized method of reliably expressing an opt-out preference.

Yeah—because the user didn’t use a bureaucrat’s special hoop. This, of course, is nonsense. The user didn’t clear the cookies because he didn’t have anything better to do with his time, so he just started putzing around with his cell phone. Leave it to an advertiser—and one that does his data collection for his clients in an entirely behind-the-scenes way—to pretend to this level of obtuseness.

Just as disappointingly, Verizon is pretending innocence in all of this.

“[I]t is unlikely that sites and ad entities will attempt to build customer profiles for online advertising” and noting that the identifier “changes frequently.”

Never mind that

While you have a Turn tracking cookie and are on the Verizon network, it kept track of the linkage between your Turn cookie and that Verizon Wireless tracking header,” he explained. “But if you get rid of the Turn cookie, the back end of that system would notice and reinstate that cookie based on the header.

It strains my credulity to think that the IT experts at Verizon wouldn’t understand this as they developed their supercookie and deployed it.

Hmm….

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