AT&T Stops Using 'Perma-Cookies' to Track Customer Web Activity


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

In late October, researchers discovered that AT&T and Verizon had been engaging in some unsavory customer tracking methods, using unique identifying numbers or "perma-cookies" to track the websites that customers visited on their cellular devices to deliver target advertisements.

Following significant negative attention from the media, AT&T today told the Associated Press that it is no longer injecting the hidden web tracking codes into the data sent from its customers' devices.
The change by AT&T essentially removes a hidden string of letters and numbers that are passed along to websites that a consumer visits. It can be used to track subscribers across the Internet, a lucrative data-mining opportunity for advertisers that could still reveal users' identities based on their browsing habits.
AT&T's customer tracking practices, called "Relevant Advertising," were the result of a pilot program the company had been experimenting with, which has apparently come to an end.

While AT&T has opted to stop using the invasive tracking method, Verizon is continuing to utilize perma-cookies to track the web activity of its customers. Unlike AT&T's experimental program, Verizon has been using Relevant Advertising techniques for approximately two years.
Verizon Wireless, the country's largest mobile firm, said Friday it still uses this type of tracking, known as "super cookies." Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis said business and government customers don't have the code inserted. There has been no evidence that Sprint and T-Mobile have used such codes.

"As with any program, we're constantly evaluating, and this is no different," Lewis said, adding that consumers can ask that their codes not be used for advertising tracking. But that still passes along the codes to websites, even if subscribers say they don't want their data being used for marketing purposes.
Verizon and AT&T customers are able to check whether their devices are sending identifying codes by visiting a website created by Kenneth White, one of the security researchers who discovered the tracking methods.

While Verizon customers can opt out of tracking on the Verizon website, that does not stop the identifying code from being inserted into the URLs of the websites that they visit.

Article Link: AT&T Stops Using 'Perma-Cookies' to Track Customer Web Activity


macrumors member
Nov 2, 2014
Shouldn't have been doing it in the first place. Amazing how, when it's brought to light by the media, they stop doing it.


macrumors regular
Jun 9, 2009

Now Verizon needs to do the right thing. Stop doing it or at least clearly notify customers they are doing it and give a very easy way to opt out.

Actually it should be opt out by default.


macrumors 65816
Jul 6, 2012
The NSA is very disappointed AT&T has dropped this valuable customer process and is hoping it is only being removed temporarily.


macrumors member
Jul 25, 2012
Carriers should be carriers........

Carriers should be carriers, not advertisers, not marketers, not content or applications providers!

If they spent all the effort and investment they put in to their "non-core" business' on providing better service no one would be complaining about them.....


macrumors 6502
Dec 19, 2012
I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Any information about you is the last sole thing that you have and it's the one and only thing that most organizations want from you (after your money of course).


macrumors regular
Oct 5, 2013
Why aren't these people out of business and in jail? can we all collectively agree to make this happen?


macrumors 6502a
Jun 29, 2010
To this day I always opt out of sending my web activity to providers under the guise of "further improving our services". It's all used to track you anyway.

Besides none of this matters anyway, the NSA could pick up the slack where ATT or Verizon or any carrier left off at.


macrumors 6502a
Sep 22, 2008
Southern Ca
Now we have the carriers tracking are activity for advertising, this type of **** is getting so old! Just tell us what the hell you are doing! I was able to opt out with AT&T.:cool:

The NSA, now carriers, google etc. Very sleasy, but I have a feeling this kind of **** is here to stay!!!:mad:


macrumors 68000
Oct 9, 2010
When it comes to anything to do with the web however obscure, the customer is the product and it will ever be thus. Consumers who are bothered by this, simply have to take appropriate action in whatever way they deem fit and are able to. It is naive to think that there is not a war of information going on driven by the immense dollars available for advertising.


macrumors 601
Mar 30, 2004
Carriers should be carriers, not advertisers, not marketers, not content or applications providers!

If they spent all the effort and investment they put in to their "non-core" business' on providing better service no one would be complaining about them.....
And if they really want to do both, offer a heavy discount much like those ad-subsidized ISPs more than a decade ago.
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