Tags: verizon | supercookies | advertising | companies

Verizon Supercookies Being Hijacked by Advertising Companies: Report

By    |   Tuesday, 27 January 2015 09:55 AM

Verizon supercookies are putting the privacy of everyday web surfers at risk, say an increasing number of computer scientists.

The New York Times reported that one of those scientists, Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University, has now uncovered at least one third-party company that's hijacked the supercookies to track users — even when they try to opt out. 

Writing on his blog earlier this month, Mayer explained that most people in the computer coding community "widely panned" Verizon Wireless' decision to inject the supercookies into its users' web browsers.  

"Numerous security researchers pointed out that this 'supercookie' could trivially be used to track mobile subscribers, even if they had opted out, cleared their cookies, or entered private browsing mode. But Verizon persisted, emphasizing that its own business model did not use [them] for tracking," he wrote.

"Out of curiosity, I went looking for a company that was taking advantage of the Verizon header to track consumers. I found one — Turn, a headline Verizon advertising partner."

Because the supercookies cannot be deleted by users, many have begun referring to them as "zombie cookies" — because they perpetually spring back to life. Mayer explained in his post that the cookies are problematic not only because they gather consumer data for the third-party that harnesses them, but because they also sync information with other business on digital advertising exchanges.

"Turn’s zombie cookie was sent to or from over 30 other businesses. They included Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Walmart, and WebMD," wrote Mayer.

"How those firms use Turn’s ID, I can’t say — it’s entirely possible that some unknowingly tracked users with a zombie value."

Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that focuses on information policy, told The Times that "stuff like this is worse than what Google or Facebook or anyone else does. I can avoid Google and Facebook, in theory at least. But if the network operator is going to spy on me, there is nothing I can do about it."

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Verizon supercookies are putting the privacy of everyday web surfers at risk, say an increasing number of computer scientists.
verizon, supercookies, advertising, companies
Tuesday, 27 January 2015 09:55 AM
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