Are privacy and security being sacrificed on the altar of advertising? Many groups believe that’s the case.
MoPub’s latest work with Verizon, for example, has already caused some alarm.
If you’re not familiar, the Twitter-owned MoPub exchange has an appetite for cookies – specifically, Verizon’s tracking cookies.
“Critics (are) concerned about how Verizon inserts unblockable cookies into HTTP requests sent via the company’s wireless network,” notes an in-depth exploration of this developing story by PCWorld. “One of the major concerns was that other companies might use this identifier, called a UIDH, and potentially build a dossier on a user’s web usage.”
The report in question reveals that “privacy critics were right to be concerned.” Why? Because of other advertising companies tapping into the identifier.
MoPub, of course, is trying to put out the fire, arguing that it doesn’t have dibs on identifiable user information. “The information we collect,” MoPub says, “does enable us to recognize your device over time.”
Security and privacy advocates, however, aren’t sold on suggestions that there’s nothing here to fear.
“Whether or not you find it concerning that MoPub is using Verizon’s identifier, it automatically begs the question of how many other advertising networks are using this identifier,” PCWorld’s Ian Paul logically asks. “Not all advertising networks are owned by a reputable company and may be less scrupulous about using the UIDH to track and identify users.”
Fortunately, users can prevent Verizon UIDH tracking by connecting to sites via SSL (HTTPS) or by connecting to the Internet through a virtual private network.
In sum, it’s an issue that will require monitoring.
“The bigger issue may not be whether advertisers build dossiers on users with these identifying codes, but whether we find it acceptable for carriers to tamper with HTTP requests traveling across their wireless networks,” Paul concludes.