Verizon's AppFlash Service Criticized Over Privacy Concerns

Verizon's upcoming AppFlash search service for Android devices has been criticized over privacy concerns after digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) labeled the product as "spyware." In a blog post published Thursday, the EFF stated that the largest wireless carrier in the United States is looking to use AppFlash as a way to monetize private user data of its customers. The post publicly calling for Verizon to focus on delivering a quality service "without spying on [its] users" has since been retracted after the Big Red reached out to the EFF and provided additional information to the privacy watchdog that has now resumed its investigation into the matter.

The New York City-based telecom giant said the AppFlash service is currently only being tested on the LG K20 V and requires users to specifically opt into the service to use it, noting how the app itself can be disabled and isn't forced onto anyone. While that clarification was enough for the EFF to temporarily retract its public accusations and continue investigating the situation, it still doesn't explain what kind of consent is Verizon asking from its customers. The company's privacy policy reveals that users of the AppFlash service yield access to their contact and location information, but it doesn't explain how Verizon is using the harvested data.

The largest mobile service provider in the country has a history of privacy-related issues that recently saw the company pay a $1.35 million fine over privacy violations regarding controversial usage of "supercookies" to track customers. While Verizon is apparently seeking permission to access user data from AppFlash testers, the company isn't legally obliged to do so and likely won't be for the foreseeable future following a polarizing repeal of broadband privacy rules that the U.S. Congress managed to pass earlier this week. The Republican-only legal initiative aimed to repeal regulations stopping carriers from selling and otherwise sharing user data without explicit consent. The original rules that will soon be officially repealed were enacted under the former Obama administration and haven't yet come into effect, though they were supposed to do so later this year. The controversial bill now only needs President Trump's signature to come into force, and the White House already confirmed the President will sign the bill in due time.

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About the Author

Dominik Bosnjak

Senior Writer
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]