Verizon Wireless has found itself in the hot seat recently following suspicions that the company is snooping on mobile customers' web activity.
The carrier has been accused of enlisting the help of special, undeletable codes, or "supercookies," to track mobile users' web traffic and collect information about their browsing habits. Indeed, Verizon admitted that the company began tracking customers' web activity in 2012.
Just recently, Verizon announced a way for users to opt out of "supercookies." Back in January, the company pledged to provide a complete opt-out program, and in late March, it delivered on its promise.
Verizon's systems have been changed to stop inserting the unique identifier header, referred to as a UIDH, for customers wishing to opt out of the program.
To disable the header tracking, users can unsubscribe from the program called Relevant Mobile Advertising. Users can do so by calling 1-866-211-0874. They can also opt out by visiting www.vzw.com/myprivacy, logging into their account, scrolling down to "Relevant Mobile Advertising" and clicking the button below that says, "No, I don't want to participate in Relevant Mobile Advertising" for each line on their account. Customers must then click the red "Save Changes" button below.
Customers can also opt out using the My Verizon app. As a follow-up measure, users can visit a site such as amibeingtracked.com to be sure that the steps were followed correctly and a unique identifier header is no longer attached to their web activity.
However, the opt-out change doesn't happen immediately. According to Verizon's Frequently Asked page, the unique identifier header will continue to appear "for a short period of time" after you update your account. According to USA Today, "Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis said that wait should not run longer than a week or so, adding that 'in many cases it may be quicker.'"
A New York Times article explains that back in January, four Democratic members of the Senate's powerful Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation sent a letter to Verizon's chief executive, Lowell C. McAdam, demanding an explanation for the company's data security and privacy practices. Verizon said it would provide a complete opt-out option to users following the letter.
However, according to the New York Times, "privacy advocates continue to press Verizon."
“This is an improvement, but it doesn't do nearly enough," Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the New York Times. “Verizon should discontinue its header injection program, or at a minimum make it opt-in," he added.
Lewis told the New York Times in a statement that privacy is a "central consideration" for the carrier when it develops new products and services.