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Verizon clears the air as accusation of spyware start to spread

While it’s become common for apps to request a questionable range of permissions, it was the nature of the launch that had the EFF worried.

 

Phillip Tracy

Tech

On Thursday the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued that an application Verizon is testing is a way for the service provider to put spyware on all Android phones in its network. The EFF’s main concern was that such a massive rollout could lead to devastating cybersecurity attacks.

The EFF has since withdrawn all but a single sentence from its original article, including all mentions of “spyware.” The edits were made following a statement from Kelly Crummey, director of corporate communications at Verizon:

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.

The EFF originally said Verizon was taking advantage of the new ruling that killed off federal privacy protection laws. It claimed the service provider would use the app as a way to collect information, including individual mobile numbers, device identifiers, device type, operating system, location, and contact information. All of those details would be shared with Verizon’s “family of companies,” (like AOL) for targeted advertising within the app and across the web.

While it’s become common for apps to request a questionable range of permissions, it was the nature of the launch that had the EFF worried.

“You can bet that with Verizon rolling this app out to such a large number of devices, hackers will be probing it for vulnerabilities, to see if they can use it as a backdoor they can break into,” the EFF wrote in a statement. “We sincerely hope Verizon has invested significant resources in ensuring that AppFlash is secure, because if it’s not, the damage to Americans’ cybersecurity could be disastrous.”

The EFF kept only one unforgiving request in its post: “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.”

The non-profit organization said it received additional information from Verizon, and withdrew the post based on that information while it investigates further.

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