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.
But AT&T in a bold move announced to cease the operation of tracking its customers. AT&T had implemented a program in all its customer smart phones which would track their activity on a day to day basis using the perma cookies and send the activity information to AT&T. AT&T may still implement a program to sell this data activity to 3rd party customers who would then use it for advertising purpose. However, Verizon will continue to track and monitor its customer’s activity.
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 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.