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Verizon Matching Customers' Personal Data To AOL's Tracking Network

Verizon, which bought AOL earlier this year, will begin matching offline personal data of its customers with the data it gets from AOL, which in turn tracks millions of users across the Web. The Verizon customers' personal data includes details such as gender, age and interests.

The invasive tracking is enabled by default for all users, and it is sent unencrypted over the Web, which leaves the personal data of millions of Verizon and AOL users vulnerable to interception for malicious entities. Verizon has 135 million wireless customers, while AOL reaches 40 percent of the Web with its advertising network.

Verizon said that it will share the data with a "limited number of partners," which suggests Verizon and AOL won't be the only companies that will have access to this data, even in the "official" way. However, Verizon did note that the data will only be used "for Verizon and AOL purposes," although it's not clear what exactly that implies.

The way Verizon's identifiers work is by inserting them into the users' Web traffic, which can't happen if the traffic is encrypted with HTTPS. Therefore, by visiting only websites that use HTTPS encryption, you can avoid Verizon's identifiers. Verizon has also set up a way to opt out of its tracking by visiting your privacy choices page in MyVerizon or calling 1.866.211.0874.

A recent report by Access found that AT&T and Vodafone had been using similar techniques to inject their trackers into their customers' Web streams to track them all over the Web, but so far no government agency in any of the countries in which they operate has taken any action on this.

In the U.S., Senators Bill Nelson, Edward Markey, and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to the FTC and FCC to ask them to bring charges against Verizon Wireless, but so far this call has remained unanswered.

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • thor220
    Oh yes, they sell to a limited number of parties. Then the company they sold to goes on and sells that data.
    Reply
  • Rancifer7
    Yes a limited number. So any number above zero and below everyone. All my tracking is disabled and has been for years.

    And people wonder why we use adblock and other associated software.
    Reply
  • thundervore
    I only wish that I can put Adblock on my router instead of having to put it on every computer. Blocking at the router level without causing pages to hang can be difficult.

    I tried it a while back with DDWRT and many pages failed to display.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    Wait.... people still use AOL?
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    AOL as an ISP died a long time ago. however they also pioneered a lot of the web tracking and advertising we know today.

    they never left the tracking/ad part of the web and have only expanded it over the years. just like you don't have to use google to be part of their tracking network, you don't have to even know AOL still exists to be part of their ad tracking network either. it is a very profitable thing to be part of and AOL was on the leading edge as the first large ISP.
    Reply
  • videobear
    Verizon does not make it easy to find that opt-out option!
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    Selling it to a limited number of companies, as suspicious as that sounds, isn't even the biggest problem. If they transfer the information without proper encryption, then there's no limit to the number of people whom can intercept and copy the data too. Even if we believe them when they say that aren't using the data for malicious purposes, it's ridiculous to believe that there isn't someone else using the data for malicious purposes.
    Reply
  • dragget
    Wait.... people still use AOL?
    Huffingtonpost.com and moviefone.com (just to name a couple) are both popular sites owned by AOL. And yes, they still have some dialup customers as well, mainly in rural areas not served by DSL or cable.
    Reply
  • thundervore
    16749522 said:
    Wait.... people still use AOL?


    Many individuals still use AOL, you wouldn't believe that many also still pay to have an @AOL.com email address. I use to use it back in the day when it was AOL with CompuServe, then had some great times in the AOL chat rooms but then moved on as I got older. I never forgot the first time I installed AOL from a 5.25 floppy way back when and im not even 30 yet lol.

    A running joke is that you can always find out someone's age by asking them their email address. If its AOL there is a high chance they are 50+
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    16754187 said:
    16749522 said:
    Wait.... people still use AOL?


    Many individuals still use AOL, you wouldn't believe that many also still pay to have an @AOL.com email address. I use to use it back in the day when it was AOL with CompuServe, then had some great times in the AOL chat rooms but then moved on as I got older. I never forgot the first time I installed AOL from a 5.25 floppy way back when and im not even 30 yet lol.

    A running joke is that you can always find out someone's age by asking them their email address. If its AOL there is a high chance they are 50+

    I know this. It was a joke. People seem to not get humor on forums.

    AOL is and was junk. Their software was the worst bloated crap. I hated trying to work on systems that still used it.

    Personally the annoying thing was all the "free trial" CDs I would get in the mail. Could have built a small house out of them.

    I used AOL as well but also used EarthLink and others. Most were the same, they had some junk version of a browser (Earthlink used Netscape, RIP) and horrible connection speeds.

    16753590 said:
    Wait.... people still use AOL?
    Huffingtonpost.com and moviefone.com (just to name a couple) are both popular sites owned by AOL. And yes, they still have some dialup customers as well, mainly in rural areas not served by DSL or cable.

    Sites are not the same as using AOL.

    And most people in rural areas tend to use satellite. Some still use dial up but it is typically too slow, even though satellite is not much better.
    Reply