Verizon Wireless, the greatest US Telecom operator is tracking the internet traffic of its mobile users by adding a token to Web requests. The token is used by the company for advertising purpose, Verizon tracks the user’s habits, even if he had opted out of their Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) options.
Customer proprietary network information (CPNI) is the information collected by telecommunications carrier about a user’s calls, including call data and any information that appears on the consumer’s telephone bill.
It seems that the practice has been going on for two years when the company launched the Unique Identifier Token Header (UIDH) under its Relevant Mobile Advertising program.
The Verizon network is adding the X-UIDH header tokens to the requests traveling over its network, every header has a unique identifier associated to each mobile device.
The UIDH allows Verizon to track customer web experience, including visited website and mobile apps used. The solution implemented by Verizon is called the PrecisionID and allows the company to profile users and its interests to tailor advertisements, according to internal documentation.
Verizon uses a different UIDH value each week, the data used by advertisers includes the subscribers’ postal address, device types and language preferences, gender, age, hobby and personal interests.
“In addition, we will use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites. This may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to online websites to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network,” explain Verizon on its website. “We do not share information that identifies you personally outside of Verizon as part of this program. [Some of this information was] obtained from other companies.“
“Verizon is rewriting your HTTP requests to insert a permacookie? Terrible,” tweeted Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation
The alarming issues is that there is no way for Verizon users to stay out of the company radar, even if they enable privacy mode navigation, use a new handset or enable Verizon privacy settings.
“Verizon responded that while the UIDH is still in the queries, consumers who have opted out of the program will no longer have information associated with the identifier. The company did not, however, pledge to stop updating the user’s profile.” reported Robert Lemos from ArsTechnica.
The unique way for Verizon users to avoid company tracking activity is to use full encryption solution like VPN (i.e. Tunnelbear or TOR).
Security Affairs – (Verizon UIDH , privacy)