Four Democratic senators urge FTC and FCC to probe into Verizon 'supercookies'

Four Democratic senators urge FTC and FCC to probe into Verizon 'supercookies'

Against the backdrop of Verizon's secret use of 'supercookies' to track the Web browsing behavior of its nearly 100 million customers, four Democratic senators have recently sent letters to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate Verizon's controversial practice.

The letters have been sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Edward Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal, (D-CT), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

In the letters, the senators have asked the two federal agencies whether the use of 'supercookies' by Verizon marks a violation of any laws; and have also suggested that a new legislation may be required to deal with the 'supercookies' issue effectively. 'Supercookies' essentially underscore an identifying string of letters and numbers which Verizon attaches to each website which customers visit on their mobile devices.

It was back in 2012 that Verizon started an advertising information collection system which inserted unique identifying headers (UIDHs) into every HTTP request for tracking visited websites. Since Verizon added the UIDH codes whether or not customers wanted to sign up, in a technically optional program, the senators have said in the letters that the decision to install such cookies should be opt-in only, instead of requiring users to opt out of a program.

Meanwhile, Verizon has told El Reg that it is "aware of the (senators) letters and will respond;" and also added: "Verizon takes our customer's privacy seriously."

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