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Verizon Settles With FCC Over Its Use of 'Supercookies' for Targeted Ads, Will Pay $1.3 Million Fine

Verizon will still be able to make use of the cookies on its own sites without getting customers explicit opt-in.

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The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it has reached a settlement with Verizon Wireless over that company’s use of permanent identifiers, known as “supercookies,” that it uses to deliver targeted advertising on mobile devices.

Under the terms of the deal, Verizon will pay a $1.35 million fine and inform its customers about its use of the identifiers and require their consent before sharing that cookie with third parties. As for its own use of the supercookies, Verizon has the option of letting consumers opt out or requiring their consent before using the identifiers.

That last part is important because advertising is playing an increasing role for the communications giant, especially after its AOL acquisition. By allowing the company to still offer opt-out for its own use of supercookies, the FCC is allowing Verizon to collect and use a tremendous amount of data in conjunction with its own websites.

Unlike traditional Internet cookies, which can be deleted or changed, the unique identifier that Verizon is using is permanent and tied directly to the wireless device.

“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 FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “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.”

The FCC started an investigation in 2014 and found that Verizon had introduced the supercookies as early as December 2012 but didn’t disclose it to customers until October 2014.

Verizon said that it has worked hard over the past year to give customers more options when it comes to its use of their data.

“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,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to give customers the information they need to decide what programs and services are right for them.”

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