Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Verizon Advertising America Online Cellphones Privacy The Internet

Verizon Is Merging Its Cellphone Tracking Supercookie with AOL's Ad Tracking Network 100

schwit1 writes: ProPublica reports that Verizon is giving a new mission to its controversial hidden identifier that tracks users of mobile devices. Verizon said in a little-noticed announcement that it will soon begin sharing the profiles with AOL's ad network, which in turn monitors users across a large swath of the Internet. That means AOL's ad network will be able to match millions of Internet users to their real-world details gathered by Verizon, including — "your gender, age range and interests." AOL's network is on 40 percent of websites, including on ProPublica.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Verizon Is Merging Its Cellphone Tracking Supercookie with AOL's Ad Tracking Network

Comments Filter:
  • Well if this is true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:42PM (#50673695)

    Then both those companies are shitbags. There should be strict industry regulation of this kind of thing (ads, tracking, etc) a lot better than currently is.

    • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:43PM (#50673715) Homepage
      even if it isnt true... .both the companies are still scumbags
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Then both those companies are shitbags.

      Would that be a new development for either of these companies?
      Funny... I came here for news for nerds and I'm getting a time capsule from 10 years ago.

      • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        Then both those companies are shitbags.

        Well, at least Verizon is telling people about it (albeit discreetly). Who knows how much sharing goes on behind the scenes?

        There should be strict industry regulation of this kind of thing (ads, tracking, etc) a lot better than currently is.

        If you even pretend to care about your privacy or reject this kind of advertising, it's better to just assume the worst. Block all advertising. Block all third-party scripts. Strongly consider blocking unknown first-party scripts.

        And finally, next time someone in advertising or marketing whines about ad-blockers, consider following my wildly successful three-step program:

        1) Explain

    • The problem with 'regulations' is that it suggests that the activity is fundamentally OK; just needs a few little safeguards to prevent specific abuses.

      In this case, they really need to just be declared hostis humani generis, and their extirpation made the duty of any person or nation that has the occasion to undertake it. Proposals involving salting the earth, skull pyramids, and flaying are also to be considered.
  • Change in contract (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spacepimp ( 664856 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:43PM (#50673717) Homepage

    I would hope this is considered a contractual change and that all customers are hereby free of obligation to Verizon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:51PM (#50673783)

    ...why people block ads and tracking if they are able. I do. I've said this before and I've taken flak for it, too, but I really miss the Blackberry heyday. Blackberry devices and the company in general didn't track the daylights out of people like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are wont to do. I am seriously considering going back to a Blackberry Classic. I don't use a single app that my mobile phone didn't ship with. I rarely, if ever, browse whilst using my mobile phone. I text and email, that's about it.

    Ever care to notice that we are now choosing what amounts to a feudal lord when we pick a handset. And then we proceed to get locked down. Blackberry, while not perfect, was/is better in this regard.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      For all it's faults, this is why I still use Firefox. IE wants to track you. Chrome was probably built around tracking you. Firefox is the only major player run by a non-profit.

      • Run by a non-profit, funded by advertisers

        Initial funding in 2003 was from AOL
        2004 - 2014 was Google
        2015 on-wards has been Yahoo!

    • ..I don't use a single app that my mobile phone didn't ship with. I rarely, if ever, browse whilst using my mobile phone. I text and email, that's about it.

      Don't get me wrong. I'm happy for you. But that's a hugely hugely fragment of a fragment of the population. there are entire countries where the phone is the primary computer device. I'm in North America and right now that's me. Because my laptop and tablet's screens are currently dead to me. I'm glad that option's open to you. Blackberry was fine in it's day and heaven knows I miss actual physical keyboards you can type without staring like an idiot. But it's far from a practical alternative the most anyon

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I already block facebook's domains and a load of other popular trackers in /etc/hosts

    What domains do AOL and Verisign use?

    (Thanks in advance.)

    • by UPZ ( 947916 )
      This crap won't work on SSL, right?
    • by meadow ( 1495769 )
      I use AdAway, a system-wide ad blocker, with Android. Also *highly* recommend Firefox (and others) Ghostery plugin. You might be able to get a list of domains from Ghostery, or perhaps other ad-blocking software.
  • You can opt out. (Score:5, Informative)

    by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:55PM (#50673819)
    You shouldn't have to, but you can.

    Relevant Mobile Advertising
    AOL is now part of Verizon, and we will soon combine Verizon's Relevant Mobile Advertising program into the AOL Advertising Network. These programs use certain customer information to help make the ads you see more interesting and useful.

    The Relevant Mobile Advertising program uses your postal and email addresses, certain information about your Verizon products and services (such as device type), and information we get from other companies (such as gender, age range, and interests). The AOL Advertising Network uses information collected when you use AOL Services and visit third-party websites where AOL provides advertising services (such as web browsing, app usage, and location), as well as information that AOL obtains from third-party partners and advertisers.

    We do not share information that identifies you personally as part of these programs other than with vendors and partners who do work for us. We require that these vendors and partners protect the information and use it only for the services they are providing us.

    These programs use online and device identifiers, including AOL browser cookies, ad IDs from Apple and Google, and one created by Verizon, known as a Unique Identifier Header (or UIDH). When the Verizon and AOL programs are combined, the UIDH will be inserted in certain web traffic that is sent only to Verizon companies (including AOL) and to certain partners who will be authorized to use the UIDH only as part of Verizon and AOL services. More information is available about the Relevant Mobile Advertising program and the UIDH.

    You have a choice about whether to participate in the Relevant Mobile Advertising program. The UIDH discussed above will stop being inserted in web traffic from your device after you opt out of the Relevant Mobile Advertising program, but will still appear for a short period of time after you opt out. Please note that if you opt-out of Relevant Mobile Advertising, but you have opted in to Verizon Selects, you will continue to receive relevant advertising and the UIDH will remain present.

    You also have choices about how AOL uses information for advertising purposes.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @05:05PM (#50673907) Homepage Journal

    Users: "Please do not track us."
    Companies: "Fuck you."
    Companies: "Please do not adblock us."
    Users: "Fuck you."

    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @05:21PM (#50674037)

      Yup, they track the hell out of everyone and everything, and then complain when people try to stop it.

      Look for sponsored articles in the media soon about how ad-blocking is "theft" or "stealing".

      Full disclosure: I run a bunch of web sites and some of them display ads (mostly google, but a few others as well). And I'm fine with people visiting my sites and using an ad-blocker if they want to. I don't block or ban people who don't want to see the ads, that's their right. It may mean that some of my sites will disappear eventually due to lack of revenue, but that's just the way the world works. I have no right to force people to see ads and I'm not going to be a dick about it.

      • If the ads are appropriate, I'm ok with them. Like reasonably sized camera gear on a photography site, small, silent biker gear ads on a motorcycle forum. I may even occasionally click on them. And I kinda like the Roadkill and Snorg ads that have pretty girls. But full page video popovers of some car commercial? Screw that. With a really big screw.

        I guess you could say that the more obnoxious sites (are you listening, seattlepi?) are ruining it for everyone else.

        • But full page video popovers of some car commercial? Screw that.

          Agreed, and I've never allowed anything like that on any of my sites. No full-page ads, no dropdowns, no auto-play sound or video, no interstitials, no popups, no pop-unders...none of that crap.

          I hate the increasingly aggressive path that advertising has taken, and even though I get regular come-ons from the ad companies asking that I allow intrusive ads, I always say "no", and delete the email. I just won't do that to my site's users.

          • It boggles the mind, that advertisers haven't figured out yet that intrusive ads are the *reason* that adblockers exist. If ads remained unobtrusive and silent, the number of people using adblockers would be significantly smaller.

            • It boggles the mind, that advertisers haven't figured out yet that intrusive ads are the *reason* that adblockers exist.

              Yup, I know. I've had this conversation with nearly every major ad company and loads of smaller ones. They understand it perfectly, they just don't give a shit.

              Really, I've had ad reps from AOL (, Doubleclick, Fastclick, GuerillaMedia, AdClickMedia, and many others I can't even remember tell me that they "understand" that people don't like the ads but "it's where the business is right now" or words to that effect.

              Really, they know...they just don't care, or I should say they didn't.... up un

              • by bmo ( 77928 )

                They know, but the people paying their bills don't care, so the "don't care" trickles down through the ad networks.

                Brand X wants an in your face ad. Ad company Y can persuade brand X with common sense, but then Brand X isn't filled with marketers full of common sense, just avarice. So Ad company Y sells Brand X's "vision" of an ad because Ad Company Y's employees need to eat.

                The only way to fix this is to do a eugenics program on marketers.


                • It gives the marketers a perfect reason to tell advertisers that they need to ramp up the number of ads they run (meaning more $$$ for the marketers). They tell them that if 10% of of their ads are being blocked then they need to run more in order to over come that.

                  It doesn't really work that way but the advertisers don't think this through...increasing the number of ads run doesn't magically overcome the ad-blocker, but for some reason they go along with the "more ads" idea. As long as they get paid they d

      • by zlives ( 2009072 )

        the question here is not even about ads (though related) but about tracking.

        • the question here is not even about ads (though related) but about tracking.

          Right, I understand that, but a LOT of tracking is done via ads. It's not just stuff like supercookies, those came along much later in the game.

          Pretty much every time you see an ad, your metrics are being tracked and correlated with other data. Ask me how I know....

      • by sootman ( 158191 )

        > Look for sponsored articles in the media soon
        > about how ad-blocking is "theft" or "stealing".

        No need to wait. They've been saying that for years, and they're pounding that drum louder than ever.

        "As abetted by for-profit technology companies, ad blocking is robbery, plain and simple..." []

        And this douche [] thinks the problem is with device makers and browsers. Yeah. It's Apple's fault that a Verge article is 9.5 MB an []

        • Yeah. It's Apple's fault that a Verge article is 9.5 MB and 263 HTTP requests. []

          I couldn't agree more. The idea of loading a single page that's nearly 10 MB in size seems utterly insane to me, but it's routine now, no big deal.

          I used to browse BoingBoing* back in the day when the page wasn't loaded to the gills with ads and every link was an Amazon associate link.

          The pages went from ~50k to ~5 MB or more with no added functionality (they're probably twice that size now). I mentioned the page bloat in a comment there once, and they banned me.

          But now every site is like that, loads upon l

    • Users: "Please do not track us."

      Companies: "I'm not tracking you; I'm providing you with a richer experience and helping to make you more aware of things about which you might have great interest."

      Users: "Yeah, um, whatever. Don't do that."

      Companies: "You don't understand. If you understood, you wouldn't ask me to stop helping you."

      Users: "Nevertheless, I am asking you to stop."

      Companies: "We are obviously having a communication problem here. Your asking me to stop means that you don't understand what

      • You're freakishly good at getting into their heads. Every time I try that, I get scared of losing my way in the eternal blackness and have to bring myself back.

  • Yippee, just what I wanted- more tracking! Woo hoo, time to celebrate! Oh, wait.......

  • AOL still exists?
  • Glad I'm not on Verizon anymore.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @05:57PM (#50674361)

    ... for Google to change its slogan from "Don't be evil" to "Don't be Verizon".

    On the other hand... it's a new TV spot opportunity for Verizon: "Can you fear me now?"

  • Every time I try to opt out of some ads for a product, I get a shitload of redirects and always end up at: []?...

    Which of course results in an error since I can't connect to [] in the first place...

  • You just knew this was coming when Verizon bought AOL. Glad I am not a Verizon customer. Now, I'm sure that I will never be one!
  • now they can spy on me together. I hate to think of them wasting time spying on me separately and comparing notes. The inefficiencies affect my engineering sensibilities. Any decent futurecaster see this as the snowball that will blow up into the one cookie. The one cookie to rule them all.
    • Kinda gives a new meaning to "Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies." ...or maybe it doesn't. Might be what they meant all along, and us being all innocent thought of the tasty kind instead of the tracking kind.

      You know...the more I think about it, the more it looks like the Dark Side are supposed to be bad guys...

  • So, which mobile browsers can be set to enforce HTTPS everywhere? Seems like this is a fix that the carriers can't do much about.

    • You can't really enforce https everywhere because there is no gaurantee that content available at http://site.whatever/some/path [site.whatever] is available at https://site.whatever/some/pat... [site.whatever] . Some sites don't accept https connections at all, some redirect them back to http (/. i'm looking at you), some offer different content on http and https.

      The eff have an extension called "https everywhere" that tries to enforce https on sites that are known to support it. It looks like said extension is available for firefox for

  • Really, did no one think the advertisers wouldn't have a backup plan? Or ten? Everyone seems to think that they have "won" because ad blocking isnt just for geeks anymore, but the ad companies haven't even really started fighting them yet. The more people resist, the more advertisers are going to push stuff in your face. Why? Because companies are seeing that it's still effective, so they pay for it, and the tracking data is valuable to help plan strategy as well.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb