U.S. FCC Confirms It Is Reviewing Verizon’s Use of Supercookies


Yesterday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission confirmed that it is reviewing Verizon Wireless’ abusive use of supercookies. This is a great step forward for mobile privacy in the U.S. and a validation of our campaign against mobile tracking.

Access has been fighting the lack of transparency regarding supercookies since last fall, when we learned that Verizon Wireless had been secretly injecting Unique Identifier Headers, or UIDH, into every single http request made by its mobile users. In response, Access developed a tool that allows mobile users to test whether they are being tracked by their carriers. To date, more than 175,000 users have taken the test.

In February, Access delivered a petition to the FCC and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agencies to investigate the use of these perma-cookies by mobile carriers. We’re glad that at least the FCC is listening.

In his statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said: “We are looking specifically into carriers’ injection of header information and the collection and use of information about their subscribers’ Internet activity.”

Not only has Access found tracking in the U.S., but we have discovered that the issue may be an international phenomenon in countries such as Canada, Spain, Peru, and the Netherlands.

The fight in the U.S. is not over. Verizon has enabled users to opt-out over the past few weeks, but we want this practice to stop entirely. The FCC needs to send a strong signal to Verizon by using the full range of its enforcement powers, which range from new rulemaking to issuing fines.