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Verizon To Pay $1.35 Million Fine To Settle US Privacy Probe (reuters.com) 51

chasm22 writes: Verizon Communications Inc agreed to pay a $1.35 million fine after the Federal Communications Commission said on Monday it found the company's wireless unit violated the privacy of its users. Verizon Wireless agreed to get consumer consent before sending data about "supercookies" from its more than 100 million users, under a settlement. The largest U.S. mobile company inserted unique tracking codes in its users traffic for advertising purposes. Supercookies are unique, non-removable identifiers inserted into web traffic to identify customers in order to deliver targeted ads from Verizon and others. The FCC said Verizon Wireless failed to disclose the practice from late 2012 until 2014, violating a 2010 FCC regulation on internet transparency. The FCC also said the supercookies overrode consumers privacy practices they had set on web browsers, which led some advocates to call it a "zombie cookie." Under the agreement, consumers must opt in to allow their information to be shared outside Verizon Wireless, and have the right to "opt out" of sharing information with Verizon.
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Verizon To Pay $1.35 Million Fine To Settle US Privacy Probe

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So then just a cost of doing business? Glad to know the FTC has some real teeth there.

  • by mitcheli ( 894743 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @05:49PM (#51655529)
    When do I get my $1.35 from the class action suit?
    • $1.35? Is that what a nickel is worth these days?

      • This "fine" would only amount to fractions of a penny per user for years of what are essentially MITM attacks.

        The FCC is doing its job here - to keep out competition in the market and then to fool the customers into thinking that there's a government "doing something" so they don't have to themselves get upset about the malfeasance of these carriers. The fine represents a notional "Verizon was fined for its behavior", for future reference, without citation.

        Yes, yes, your seventh-grade social studies theory

    • by Anonymous Coward

      right after they add the "$8 regulatory compliance fee" to your bill.

  • Chump change... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2016 @05:50PM (#51655535)

    $1.35 million dollars is chump change to verizon - should be $135 million so they notice it.

    • Re:Chump change... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @06:14PM (#51655655)

      $135 million is chump change. What kind of profit do you think they made selling this tracking information on millions of wireless users over months/years of doing it?

      It should be $100 million dollars PLUS $50 per subscriber cookie. The tracking cookie database and any other databases built from this data should be scrubbed, as verified by a third party auditor chosen by the FCC, billed to Verizon. They should be barred from re-implementing this system under any other name or any other opt-in format with a follow-up audit by FCC chosen auditors.

      Any future violation of this nature should be fined at $100 per violation.

    • We need a +10 insightful here.

    • This is:

      Under the agreement, consumers must opt in to allow their information to be shared outside Verizon Wireless, and have the right to "opt out" of sharing information with Verizon.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I, Anonymous Coward, have received ten commandments from God during my time on Mount Goatse. Obey these commandments and you shall have favor with the Lord.

    1. Microsoft is your God. Thou shalt not worship any other Gods. Windows is the literal word of God, perfect and true.
    2. Thou shalt keep the first post holy. Thou shalt not post on-topic comments that defile the sacred first post.
    3. Thou shalt not dishonor the names of Microsoft, Windows, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer. They are holy and of God.
    4. If you

  • by Bugler412 ( 2610815 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @06:00PM (#51655593)
    $1.35 million is such a tiny "penalty" that it really gets me steamed. This is a company that was actively modifying user's request to suit their interests, with no opt out and no ability for the user to even know it was happening. And when I contacted their support over it, the actively and vehemently denied doin it even as I watched it happening in the packet capture between my phone and web server, even contacted an attorney over it, but he wouldn't take the case due to an inability to assign a dollar value to the "damage". Yes, you could avoid it by using HTTPS/TLS, but given the sloppy coding of many or most apps, and near zero visibility of the workings of those apps, how could you be sure you were avoiding it (and yes, I have to use apps occasionally for my side work that have no corollary web interface). This "fine" would only amount to fractions of a penny per user for years of what are essentially MITM attacks.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      even contacted an attorney over it, but he wouldn't take the case due to an inability to assign a dollar value to the "damage"

      This is really the problem in a nutshell. It's an abhorrent invasion of privacy but nobody can really calculate a dollar value on the damages incurred. Maybe a megabyte of data, total, on a monthly basis, and even then only if the data wasn't somehow excepted from data usage.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'll post this as an AC but the funny thing is, I could pay this and not even worry about it. VZ dropped a little this afternoon. No, I didn't sell. It's but a blip in the radar and doesn't mean anything more than that. I wonder how well they monetized this. Needless to say, their filings don't itemize it. At least not as far as I can see.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We're just consumer - a sea of small numbers to these people.

      It also shows how the free markets are anything but. In the Econ 101 textbooks, the markets should take care of this. But as we see, nothing will really change. Telcos, ISPs, cable companies, airlines, banks, etc ... will continues their abuse of us because they know that we'll shut up and take it. We may move to another company - whatever little choice we may have - and get abused by them also.

      And most people are oblivious or just take it. Everyo

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @06:02PM (#51655603) Homepage Journal

    a $1.35 million fine [...] data about "supercookies" from its more than 100 million users

    1 cent per customer, that will show them.

  • US Government to pay 199 Trillion dollar fine for violating the privacy of it's citizens as well as those of other countries.

    Now that would be an interesting headline.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      As a person who pays a bunch of taxes and did not support the government doing such things, you're wanting me to pay for it again? First, I had to pay the money that let them do it. Then, I had to pay for the loss of reputation and business associated with it - which is a bit abstract. Now, you want me to pay for the cleanup. All while I've adamantly expressed disdain for the practice...

      *sighs* I guess it's a good thing if you don't earn/have enough to pay much in taxes. So, there's that. I suppose you'll b

      • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

        Don't worry, the gov would pay the fine to itself.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          They don't actually have their own money. In order to pay it, they'll have to use our money to do so. That counts them printing more or loaning more. We have to make up for what is printed.

          Hell, it'd be cheaper just to bomb the hell out the "other countries" you mentioned and just take their shit.

  • Opt-in, really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @06:08PM (#51655633) Homepage

    Under the agreement, consumers must opt in to allow their information to be shared outside Verizon Wireless

    And since there is no logical reason to ever opt-in to this, I wonder what shady process the opt-in will take. Probably a link that pops up on your phone at some point, saying "By using your mobile data plan you agree to the Verizon web browsing policy..." and everyone will click "yes." The one person who clicks the "read agreement" link, which will be me, will get bored by page 5 out of 453 pages. You bet it doesn't say "By clicking yes, you agree to allow Verizon to provide information to advertisers at no benefit to you." with a default of "No."

  • Verizon Wireless agreed to get consumer consent before sending data about "supercookies" from its more than 100 million users, under a settlement.

    Translation: "Continuing use of this service gives your consent to collect and share this information. If you do not consent, please call [number] for our no-hassle cancellation of your service."

  • Compared to RIAA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2016 @06:48PM (#51655821)

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/sep/11/minnesota-woman-songs-illegally-downloaded
    $220,000 for copying 24 songs

    or
    In 2009, a jury ordered Tenenbaum – who graduated from Boston University with a doctorate in statistical physics in May – to pay $675,000 in damages fro copying 30 songs.

    Maybe its about time that corporations started getting fines of 10-20 times their income

    • http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/sep/11/minnesota-woman-songs-illegally-downloaded
      $220,000 for copying 24 songs

      or
      In 2009, a jury ordered Tenenbaum – who graduated from Boston University with a doctorate in statistical physics in May – to pay $675,000 in damages fro copying 30 songs.

      Maybe its about time that corporations started getting fines of 10-20 times their income

      So long as politicians, lawyers and judges hold stock in said companies there will be no possibility of justice being done.

  • Way to stick it to them, FCC! THAT's how you show these companies who's the boss! Gooooooooo Guv!!!!!

    AKA "What's the least fine we can 'demand' you pay that would look like we did something? We wouldn't want it to be any hindrance to your business, share prices, bonuses, etc. of course, or more than you already paid your attorneys to fight this, but it shouldn't be TOO much less than a penny per customer or people might catch on."

  • Who else thinks "Privacy Probe" is an oxymoron?

  • by alw53 ( 702722 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @08:43PM (#51656317)
    This is an awesome result for Verizon because it immunizes them against future class action suits for change that they might find under couch cushions.
  • $1.35M isn't even a rounding error to Verizon.

  • Verizon to pay 1.35 cents fine....

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