Verizon settles with FCC over “supercookie” ad targeting, will pay $1.35M fine

The Federal Communications Commission announced today that it has reached an agreement with Verizon Wireless.

The FCC says it’s been investigating Verizon’s use of Unique Identifier Headers (more commonly known as “supercookies,” which serve as a permanent identifier that tracks user behavior even after you’ve deleted your cookies). Investigators found that the carrier has been using supercookies for ad-tracking since December 2012 but didn’t disclose this until October 2014.

As a result of the settlement, Verizon won’t have to stop using supercookies, but it will pay a $1.35 million fine. (Keep in mind that Verizon reported in $34.3 billion in revenue for its most recent quarter.) It’s also required to ask users to opt-in before sharing this data with third parties, and to obtain “either opt-in or opt-out consent” when using the data for its own ad targeting.

Verizon’s ad ambitions have probably expanded recently thanks to its acquisition of AOL (which owns TechCrunch) — the company has already said that it plans to combine its user data with AOL’s.

A Verizon spokesperson sent us the following statement:

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. Over the past year, we have made several changes to our advertising programs that have provided consumers with even more options.  Today’s settlement with the FCC recognizes that.  We will continue to give customers the information they need to decide what programs and services are right for them.