I think we've come to accept that there's probably no such thing as total digital privacy. But now, there's news that Verizon is tracking its customers' every move online.
If you're a Verizon Wireless customer, then you've had 50 letters, numbers and characters attached to every website you've visited with your Verizon gadget. This combination of characters is used to identify the websites that you visit.
Verizon calls it a Unique Identifier Header. If you aren't worried yet, then get this: Its primary use is to help advertisers identify who you are and what websites that you visit. If you've ever felt weird about how Facebook uses your likes and dislikes to sell you stuff, your UIDH might be even worse.
A UIDH totally kicks the possibility of using private browsers or choosing to "go incognito" out the window. Why? Because your UIH is transmitted along with the data that Verizon sends to a website with whom you're communicating.
UIDH has been around for two years and, according to Wired, it hasn't gotten any "serious attention." So Verizon Wireless has been quietly tracking your Internet activity and there's no way to turn it off.
You can check if your UIHD is being tracked by visiting lessonslearned.org/sniff. If there's nothing displayed after "Your UID is reporting" then you're not transmitting information to advertisers.
While security researchers have been steadily uncovering more and more security vulnerabilities in products all across the Internet of Things, they've mostly ignored the way that Verizon tracks its customers. The information about your browsing is valuable to advertisers around the world, but it also seems like it'd be very valuable to hackers.
Worse yet, if Kenneth White - the creator of the site that lets you find out if Verizon is tracking you - can find out what your UIHD is reporting, then hackers might be able to do the same thing.
For now, I'd suggest a wait-and-see approach. Hopefully security researchers jump on this potential vulnerability and start exposing what hackers could potentially do with the information that Verizon is giving up about any one of its 123 million customers.
Meanwhile, if you are a Verizon customer, how do you feel about them tracking your online habits, and providing that information to advertisers? Please let me know in the comments below.