The Federal Trade Commission this week announced it reached a settlement with Turn Inc., a digital ad targeting company and Verizon partner, after the Commission charged it continued to track consumers online and via mobile applications despite attempts by consumers to block or limit tracking cookies.
According to the FTC’s formal complaint in the case, Turn represented on its opt-out page that its opt-out procedure would effectively block tracking and the display of tailored ads on consumers’ websites and apps. However, the FTC complaint continued, Turn “continued to track Verizon Wireless customers who had deleted or blocked cookies through the X-UIDH header.”
The case is related to Verizon’s own tangle with regulators over its use of so-called “supercookies,” or unique identifiers used to track individual customers as they browse the Internet. The FTC complaint noted Turn used the identifiers from Verizon between February 2013 and January 2015 to follow “all unencrypted web requests for more than 100 million consumers on the Verizon Wireless data network,” and attempted to insert new cookies using the same identifier in a user’s device even after customers had attempted to clear the tracker by deleting their cookies.
Verizon in April 2015 began offering a customers a way to fully opt out of the tracking program following a call from Democratic Senators for an investigation of the practice. In March, the carrier agreed to pay a $1.35 million fine and promised to notify consumers about its targeted advertising programs and gain their consent before sharing its tracking data with third parties as part of a settlement with the FCC.
The FTC’s agreement with Turn will similarly offer consumers more control over their privacy by barring Turn from further misrepresenting the extent of its tracking and customer options and forcing the company to provide an “effective” opt out for consumers who don’t want to be tracked. The settlement also requires Turn prominently display a hyperlink on its home page that leads to a disclosure explain what the company collects and uses for its targeted advertising.
“Turn tracked millions of consumers online and through mobile apps even if they had taken steps to block or limit tracking,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The FTC’s order will ensure the company honors consumers’ privacy choices.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations