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Attention Verizon customers: New bloatware app can monitor your smartphone

If you’re worried about advertisers spying on you, you should be. Cellphone giant Verizon is about to start collecting loads of information about you, the products you buy, your contacts and a lot more.

You can call it spyware, which is just what the Electronics Frontier Foundation had done earlier this week. It has since pulled the term “spyware” while it investigates Verizon’s new app. But you decide.

It’s called AppFlash. The idea sounds simple if a bit disconcerting. Verizon’s app for Android smartphones will collect information about the apps you use, your phone number and more. It will also access your contacts. Worse, Verizon said it will share your personal information with other companies it owns, notably AOL and soon, Yahoo.

The positive spin on this is, it’s a useful tool when AppFlash sends you movie listings, restaurant reviews and similar content if it’s tailored to your tastes. But if you value your privacy, AppFlash is an unsettling new development.

It comes just days after Congress jumped into your privacy. It withdrew an FCC proposal to limit how much information Internet Service Providers can collect about you for their advertisers.

If you don’t want Verizon collecting your information, you don’t have to. But you better make sure AppFlash isn’t installed on your Android device.

Verizon has told multiple sources that AppFlash works if you opt into the program. Plus, you can delete the app. But why should you have to?

Note: For now, AppFlash will be downloaded for just one phone, the LG K20 V.

Disabling and Limiting Verizon’s AppFlash

According to Verizon’s AppFlash privacy policy, “you can control whether AppFlash collects location and contact information about your device using settings available on your device.”

To turn off or manage your Location Services settings in Android, go to Settings >> Personal >> Location Services. Alternatively, you can go to Settings >> Apps >> select AppFlash then under Permission, toggle “Location” off.

Verizon also advises that “you can opt-out of receiving advertisements targeted in apps on your mobile device using the “Limit Ad Tracking” or similar capability on your device or by following the instructions provided at this Mobile Device Choices page.”

What do you think about AppFlash? Is it spyware or a convenient way for advertisers to tailor messages to you? Let us know in comments.

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