Zombie Super Cookie: Verizon’s Undeletable Stealth Tracking Cookie Abuses Privacy Rights Of Customers

Cellphone carrier Verizon has a zombie cookie problem. An online advertising company used highly by Google, Yahoo, and Facebook is using an undeletable tracking cookie to bring deleted cookies back from the dead. Verizon insisted that no one would take advantage of their hidden cookie, but instead is now the cause of zombie super cookies and over-riding customer privacy rights.

In a related article by the Inquistir, big brother is watching you — and former Vice President Al Gore says government “surveillance violates the Constitution,” and congressional scrutiny of Facebook’s tracking cookies has been prompted by invasive tracking methods.

Verizon, and AT&T as well, have been on the bleeding edge of developing “stealth” tracking cookies that can track a customers web activity and location, yet can’t be disabled via browser settings. Security researchers only just noticed Verizon has been modifying wireless customers traffic to embed a unique identifier traffic header.

Verizon’s website insisted that “it is unlikely that sites and ad entities will attempt to build customer profiles” using these identifiers. AT&T response to the privacy rights controversy was that their use was only for testing and has since terminated the program.

Despite insisting that the undeleteable cookies wouldn’t be farmed to build customer profiles without consent, Verizon’s cookies have been utilized by advertising clearinghouse Turn to create zombie super cookies. The company has used Verizon’s hidden tracking cookie to resurrect deleted dead cookies.

According to TechDirt, Verizon is not too concerned about how their hidden cookie is abusing customers privacy rights.

“When asked about Turn’s use of the Verizon [unique identifier] number to respawn tracking cookies, a Verizon spokeswoman said, ‘We’re reviewing the information you shared and will evaluate and take appropriate measures to address.’ Turn privacy officer Ochoa said that his company had conversations with Verizon about Turn’s use of the Verizon tracking number and said ‘they were quite satisfied.'”

According to ProPublica, Turn has also stated that it allows for opting out of their zombie cookies, but research has shown otherwise.

“Initially, Turn officials also told ProPublica that its zombie cookie had a benefit for users: They said they were using the Verizon number to keep track of people who installed the Turn opt-out cookie, so that if they mistakenly deleted it, Turn could continue to honor their decisions to opt out. But when ProPublica tested that claim on the industry’s opt-out system, we found that it did not show Verizon users as opted out. Turn subsequently contacted us to say it had fixed what it said was a glitch, but our tests did not show it had been fixed.”

What do you think of Turn’s practice with zombie cookies? What do you think Verizon should do about the zombie horde they’ve created?

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