AT&T, Verizon Are Still Tracking Customers
In 2016, Verizon landed themselves in hot water because they were tracking customers without consent. Verizon agreed with the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, to stop tracking customers without them explicitly agreeing. Verizon’s agreement with the FCC followed privacy groups asking the carrier and regulatory body to put an end to this practice and at the time, Verizon conceding that it would stop the practice was seen as a victory. Unfortunately, it appears that Verizon has not yet stopped tracking customer details.
Shotwell Labs has demonstrated two mobile websites that return customer account details when visited by a cell ‘phone. These demo sites can return the full name, location and more, when a zip code is entered onto a website and a button pressed. It appears that the information is being provided via the same technology that Verizon promised to disable – the Unique Identifier Header, which is added to HTTP requests sent from Verizon customers. Verizon charge mobile websites a fee to provide access to this information, and AT&T have a similar technology called the “Mobile Identity API.”
Of course, many carriers have been collecting this sort of data from customers for a long time – as well as selling the information on too. Mostly, the data collected is used for generating revenue for the carrier although some companies use the data for verification and security purposes. It’s possible that customers may benefit from this technology, but the issue here with Verizon is that they are still using the technology without explicit user permission.
Philip Newstrom explains that after his blog post, several resources and links were removed by AT&T and Verizon. It’s almost as though they don’t want customers to find out that their activities are being tracked and are freely available for paying websites, government agencies, and similar.