Verizon has announced it will install spyware called AppFlash on all of its users’ Android devices within the next few weeks, just days after the House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow internet providers to sell people’s browser histories to advertisers.
AppFlash works to connect content and services between different apps, and suggests restaurants, music, movies, etc., that might interest users, according to TechCrunch. To be able to make relevant suggestions, the spyware gathers data about your preferences from your searches and apps.
Not only does the spyware collect your phone number, it also records your location and everything stored on your device, including the information for all of your contacts, Engadget reported.
Verizon said the information would be shared with all of the companies Verizon owns or is partnered with, including AOL.
The revelation caused privacy watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation to initially decry AppFlash as “the first horseman of the privacy apocalypse,” according to PhoneArena.
The digital rights group did back off from their strong opposition to the software, pending further investigation, when Verizon clarified users would have to opt in to the software.
“You can easily disable the app,” a Verizon spokeswoman said, CNET reported. “Nobody is required to use it.
Twitter users seem universally opposed to the spyware addition, with many saying they plan to seek other ISPs and cell phone service providers.
— Northern Cali-Gator (@microdile) March 31, 2017
You were my 1st, have been my only. I trusted you. I plan to see other ISPs. You and your spyware deserve each other.
— Irene Koehler (@IreneKoehler) March 31, 2017