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Verizon Will Pay $1.35 Million Fine In Settlement Over Its Use Of 'Supercookies'

Pedestrians walk past a Verizon Wireless shop.
Charles Dharapak
Pedestrians walk past a Verizon Wireless shop.

Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay a $1.35 million fine to settle with the Federal Communications Commission over allegations that it improperly used "supercookies."

The unique identifiers, which Verizon uses to target advertising to its mobile users, remain on wireless devices even when a customer clears a device's cache.

Investigators had found that Verizon had been using "supercookies" since December 2012, but the company didn't disclose it was doing so until October 2014.

"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," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. "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."

Under the terms of the settlement, Verizon will now have to inform its customers it is using "supercookies." Verizon will also have to receive consent from customers before sharing the "supercookies" with a third party.

Verizon will be allowed to continue using "supercookies" for its own purposes, but it has to give customers the opportunity to opt out or give their consent before the company uses them.

The tech site Re/Code explains:

"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."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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