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

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Apr 12, 2001
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Both Verizon and AT&T appear to be engaging in some unsavory customer tracking techniques, using unique identifying numbers to deliver targeted advertisements to customers in what's called "Relevant Advertising." As outlined by Wired, Verizon is altering the web traffic of its customers by inserting a Unique Identifier Header or UIDH, a temporary serial number that lets advertisers identify Verizon users on the web.

According to Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the UIDH serves as a "perma-cookie" that can be read by any web server to "build a profile" of internet habits. Verizon users cannot turn off the UIDH, but opting out of the Relevant Mobile Advertising Program prevents the information from being used to create targeted ads.

Verizon has been using Relevant Advertising techniques for two years, but the tracking has gone largely unnoticed until recently, when extra data from Verizon customers was noticed. AT&T appears to be engaging in similar tracking activities, and is testing its own Relevant Advertising system.

According to Forbes, AT&T is testing a similar code insertion program that will allow websites to track AT&T customers. Like Verizon, AT&T has plans to make the tracking codes temporary as a "privacy-protective measure," but according to one of the researchers that discovered the tracking, Kenneth White, the codes that AT&T is sending to some customers are persistent.
AT&T does not currently have a mobile Relevant Advertising program. We are considering such a program, and any program we would offer would maintain our fundamental commitment to customer privacy," read a statement from AT&T. "For instance, we are testing a numeric code that changes every 24 hours on mobile devices to use in programs where we serve ads to the mobile device. This daily rotation on the numeric code would help protect the privacy of our customers. Customers also could opt out of any future AT&T program that might use this numeric code."
Unlike Verizon, AT&T will not include the unique identifier code in the IP packets of customers who have opted out of the company's Relevant Advertising program.

Both Verizon and AT&T customers can check whether their devices are sending identifying codes by visiting a website created by aforementioned security researcher Kenneth White. Verizon customers appear to be unable to opt out entirely, but AT&T customers can visit the following website on their mobile devices (while connected to the AT&T network) to turn off Relevant Advertising: http://205.234.28.93/mobileoptout/.

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

KPOM

macrumors P6
Oct 23, 2010
15,785
4,328
Thank for the PSA. I'm going to opt out now.

Here's the link to Verizon (can be from any device):

www.verizonwireless.com/myprivacy/


Here's the link to AT&T (must be from your phone, with wi-fi turned off):
http://205.234.28.93/mobileoptout/

Note that this only opts out of getting targeted junk ads, not VZW or AT&T inserting perma-cookies.
 
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HappyDude20

macrumors 68040
Jul 13, 2008
3,046
339
Los Angeles, Ca
Thank for the PSA. I'm going to opt out now.

You can only opt out of the relevant advertising. There is no option to opt out of them collecting web activity from you.

Just read AT&T gives you the option.

Still, these 2 companies are messing with our privacy.
 
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FieldingMellish

Suspended
Jun 20, 2010
2,440
3,108
It should be an Op-In. Bad enough that Google inserts products into my web pages from sites I've visited. These are baby steps toward total control.
 
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Bahroo

macrumors 68000
Jul 21, 2012
1,860
2
So can you opt out on Verizon? Where do I opt out, I checked the website and Verizon is actively tracking me smfh lol
 
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GhostSeq

macrumors member
May 10, 2013
42
3
can I just say how happy I am since switching from many years with Verizon to T-Mobile last month when the new iphone came out?

Sooooooo much happier with T-Mobile - and saving a LOT of money since the switch.
 
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roland.g

macrumors 604
Apr 11, 2005
6,865
2,199
You can only opt out of the relevant advertising. There is no option to opt out of them collecting web activity from you.

Just read AT&T gives you the option.

Still, these 2 companies are messing with our privacy.[/B]

Sure there is. Get an AdTrap for your home network. You can even set up a proxy so that all your away traffic is routed through home. It gives you a bit of performance hit, but ad-free browsing and content streaming is fantastic.
 
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johndellis

macrumors newbie
Aug 26, 2009
10
0
You can only opt out of the relevant advertising. There is no option to opt out of them collecting web activity from you.

Just read AT&T gives you the option.

Still, these 2 companies are messing with our privacy.

An anonymizing VPN like Viking or an equivalent will circumvent this. They cannot embed a cookie into an encrypted stream to your VPN server which is marshaling all traffic to and fro.
 
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PowerBook-G5

macrumors 65816
Jul 30, 2013
1,243
1,179
The United States of America
How we opt out from verizon?

Yes, how do we opt out? Why the hell do they need to bring me "more personalized ads?" I can count on my third hand the amount of times I have seen an advertisment on my phone that has made me think "OMG! I NEED THAT PRODUCT IN THE AD!" **** data collection from the cellular carriers, who feed that data into the government.
 
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nutmac

macrumors 601
Mar 30, 2004
4,806
3,385
Sure there is. Get an AdTrap for your home network. You can even set up a proxy so that all your away traffic is routed through home. It gives you a bit of performance hit, but ad-free browsing and content streaming is fantastic.

How does that help you when you are on cellular network with mobile devices?
 
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