The Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, recently published a report that Verizon has plans to preinstall invasive spyware on all Android phones owned by its subscribers, which was met with due outrage. But Verizon is now saying that "AppFlash," the spyware in question, is only a test run for one type of Android device, the LG K20 V, and it's possible for users to opt out.

Verizon's Plans To Install Spyware

Earlier this week, the Big Red announced that it would start preloading its new search tool AppFlash on Android phones, but at the expense of user privacy. As The EFF noted, AppFlash will basically act as a legitimate spyware, storing vast amounts of data about the user's mobile usage — including what apps are being used, and how long are they being used for.

"With this spyware, Verizon will be able to sell ads to you across the Internet based on things like which bank you use and whether you've downloaded a fertility app," wrote the EFF. The statements have now been redacted, with every sentence in the main story now in strikethrough format.

Prior to Verizon's clarification, however, the types of data it will collect alarmed users. Under the privacy policy of AppFlash, Verizon said that it would collect the user's mobile number, device identifier, device type and operating system, and the user's interactions with AppFlash. In addition, AppFlash will also collect the list of apps installed on the user's device, as mentioned previously. More pressing is the ability of the app to access the user's list of contacts, and even the user's exact current location.

Internet Privacy Rules Vote Outrage

Reports of the types of data to be collected, as one can imagine, sat noxious with users, especially in light of mounting contention of privacy protection, a concept harmed by the recent Congress vote to repeal FCC's privacy rules set in place last year. Verizon's plans added to the increasing panic of internet service providers soon being able to auction off user data sans any consent.

As Gizmodo reports, Verizon went into heavy damage control mode following the backlash. It clarified that it's sticking to the opt-in program which allows customers to decide if they want their data to be sold. Alternatively, users can shun the app altogether. As Verizon stated:

"Or, you can easily disable the app. Nobody is required to use it. Verizon is committed to your privacy."

While the data AppFlash can collect may be controlled, it can't be deleted entirely from the user's phone, not unless one goes through the chore of rooting the device. Verizon will roll out AppFlash "in the coming weeks." If you want to protect your data from collection, make sure to disable AppFlash's access to it.

Thoughts about Verizon's move to install spyware on a particular Android phone model? How does this, in your opinion, contribute to the larger narrative of privacy threats, as informed by the recent backpedals in privacy rules? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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