Posted on Mar 31, 2017 by Caleb Chen

Thanks to repeal of FCC online privacy rules, Android phones on Verizon will soon come with pre-installed spyware called Appflash


verizon announces appflash spyware

Soon, every Verizon user on Android will have a new online privacy concern that they need to be aware of – pre-installed spyware called Appflash. This week, Verizon announced their intentions to release a default, pre-installed new search experience for their Android users. In the next few weeks, the telecom will roll out a Google search bar replacement that sends information on your searches and app usage to Verizon instead of Google. The Verizon-supported CTIA lobbied the FCC and has previously claimed that web browsing history and mobile app usage information are not considered sensitive information. The speed with which telecoms have pounced on the lack of FCC online privacy regulations after this week’s 215-205 vote is shocking.

Verizon’s new Appflash is pre-installed spyware

Verizon is working with the creators of app launcher Evie Launcher, Evie, to create Appflash. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had stark words for Verizon, calling their move the First Horseman of the Privacy Apocalypse:

“Verizon should immediately abandon its plans to monitor its customers’ behaviors, and do what it’s paid to do: deliver quality Internet service without spying on users.”

In America, it seems that the Privacy Apocalypse is upon us. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only terror that Verizon is potentially unleashing on its customers by forcing this app down their throats. Security is a risk as well because of the vast reach of the app in terms of installs and access. Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing pointed out:

Appflash’s privacy policy confirms that the app collects “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…[and] information about the list of apps you have on your device” — and that data is used by “non-Verizon sites, services and devices.”

The policy goes on to describe Appflash’s intentions to also track your location and contact information. Just as predicted, the telecoms have started to drag us down the slippery slope of online privacy degradation. President Trump still hasn’t signed S.J.Res. 34, Private Internet Access asks that he must veto S.J.Res. 34. Such a strong move would stop anti-privacy and profit-grabbing actions from telecoms and inevitably ISPs as well. This is a Privacy Apocalypse – and it’s time to adapt. If the government won’t protect your online privacy, you’ll just have to do so yourself. All is not lost though, some state governments, like Minnesota, have taken moves to enact their own online privacy rules.

Update: Kelly Crummey, Director of Corporate Communications of Verizon reached out to the EFF and clarified: “As we said earlier this week, we are testing AppFlash to make app discovery better for consumers. The test is on a single phone – LG K20 V – and you have to opt-in to use the app. Or, you can easily disable the app. Nobody is required to use it. Verizon is committed to your privacy. Visit www.verizon.com/about/privacy to view our Privacy Policy.”

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About Caleb Chen

Caleb Chen is a digital currency and privacy advocate who believes we must #KeepOurNetFree, preferably through decentralization. Caleb holds a Master's in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia as well as a Bachelor's from the University of Virginia. He feels that the world is moving towards a better tomorrow, bit by bit by Bitcoin.


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8 Comments

  1. LibertarianUSA42

    time to mod the phones!

    7 months ago
    Reply
  2. Japzone

    So glad I ditched Verizon and now only buy my phones unlocked. No more preinstalled crapware for me. Add PIA running 24/7 and I have some good defenses.

    7 months ago
    Reply
  3. Mail carrier

    Maybe I’m getting old, or just flat out missing the point. I’m not a fan of advertisement on my smartphone. I suppose if the government wanted to track me or see what I was doing online they could without the app anyway. For instance if I travel and it suggests local attractions or restaurants. I don’t think Big Brother gives a damn about what I do personally, but say, you have Ahab the Arab googling stuff like pipe bombs and IED along with places they’re visiting, it would improve everyone’s physical security if a red flag went off somewhere, wouldn’t​ it. If I’m way off base, feel free to straighten me out.

    7 months ago
    Reply
  4. Goblin Shark

    Too bad all this was debunked 24 hours before you posted this report. Hey great reporting, though, that National Enquirer internship really paid off!

    7 months ago
    Reply
    1. theprez98 (总统)

      This. The EFF walked back its entire blog post after, you know, actually talking to Verizon.

      7 months ago
      Reply
  5. Charlie Walker

    The implications are more on the level of selling your information to the highest bidder. Corporations will pay top dollar if they can get inside the heads of the consumer. And Verizon is jumping on the high seas of open profiteering.

    7 months ago
    Reply
    1. Goblin Shark

      It’s what Google has been doing to you since their first day in business. You realize that, right?

      7 months ago
      Reply
      1. Charlie Walker

        Yes that’s always been obvious. But now no laws giving options to opt out. You realize that right?

        7 months ago
        Reply