Update: Verizon has since contacted the Electric Frontier Foundation, clarifying AppFlash will only be tested on LG K20 V handsets and will offer the option to opt out. The publication has since redacted its claims. Here’s what it said:
With Congress voting to allow internet service providers to practically auction off your browsing history without any consent, Verizon is coming to put yet another nail in the coffin of your dying internet privacy.
Earlier this week, the popular carrier announced plans to start pre-loading Android phones with its new search tool AppFlash. But as it turns out, equipping devices with the custom-built app will come at the expense of your privacy.
As pointed out by digital rights advocate Electric Frontier Foundation, AppFlash will practically function like legitimate spyware, collecting concerning amounts of data about your mobile usage – including what apps you install and how you use them.
We collect information about your device and your use of the AppFlash services. This information includes your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system, and information about the AppFlash features and services you use and your interactions with them. We also access information about the list of apps you have on your device.
In addition to this, the app will access all contact information you store on your device and also track your precise location.
What is particularly troubling is that Verizon will use all data it accumulates for targeted advertising via its family of companies as well as third-party vendors.
While the good thing about AppFlash is that you can control what information Verizon collects (and even opt out of receiving targeted ads), the bad thing is that you won’t be able to delete the app from your phone – not without rooting your phone at least.
Verizon is slated to begin rolling out the AppFlash “in the coming weeks”: So better make sure you cut its access to your data once it lands on your phone.