from the that-only-took-two-years-and-four-months dept
One of the biggest problems with the program (aside from modifying user traffic to begin with) was that if a user opted out of Verizon's program, they were only able to opt out of personalized ad delivery -- not the embedding of the UIDH. After months of staying largely mute on the subject, Verizon has issued a statement saying that its opt-out service will actually work -- sometime "soon":
"Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services. As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus. We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs. We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon. As a reminder, Verizon never shares customer information with third parties as part of our advertising programs."Again, you're not "taking customer privacy seriously" when you develop and use a system that not only makes all of their privacy choices completely irrelevant, but broadcasts their online behavior for any unethical nitwit to abuse. That would, by fairly strict definition, be not taking consumer privacy seriously.
While not engaging in this practice at all (or requiring that users opt in) would be a preferred solution, functional opt out would at least be an improvement, though it still raises questions about what kind of privacy protections need to be in place to prevent us from playing Whac-a-Mole with an endless parade of bad ideas just like this one. Back in 2008, Verizon stated that the wireless industry didn't really need consumer privacy protections because public shame would keep them honest; though it's worth repeating that this program was in play for two years before security researchers even noticed it. It stumbled forth another four months before Verizon finally stated it would do something about it -- eventually.
Verizon's decision came a day after the company received a letter from the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation asking for more details on the program. So while the company's hoping to avoid tougher consumer protections (like oh, any location data privacy protections whatsoever or Title II), it's once again proving quite clearly why we actually need someone guarding the privacy henhouse with notably sharper teeth.