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EFF withdraws Verizon spyware claims

After Verizon tells the EFF that it's just testing the app on one phone, the web watchdog pulls its complaint till it can investigate further.

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Verizon's AppFlash may be spyware, says the EFF.

CNET

Be on the lookout for a new app from Verizon.

The telecom giant is set to launch a new product for Android users called AppFlash. It's supposed to find content such as restaurant reviews and movie listing from different apps -- even if you haven't downloaded them.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on Thursday called the app "spyware," pointing to terms in Verizon's own privacy policy that say the app will collect information like your phone number, device type and "identifiers," operating system and the apps you've accumulated. That data could be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including its AOL advertising unit, as well as in "other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices."

But after Verizon talked to the EFF, the organization pulled the post and said it would investigate the app further.

The flare-up comes just days after Congress voted to pull the plug on rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission that would have made it harder for internet service providers to collect your data for advertising purposes. The ISPs argued that the rules were too stringent relative to those governing online players like Google and Facebook, while consumer advocates said the move weakens the protections for our privacy.

Verizon told both CNET and the EFF that AppFlash would initially work on just a single phone -- a midlevel device called the LG K20 V -- as a test and that customers would have to opt in to use the app.

"You can easily disable the app," said a spokeswoman. "Nobody is required to use it."

Previously, the EFF warned that if Verizon were to roll this out more broadly, the app might present an opportunity for hackers to get into its phones. While the watchdog group has withdrawn its complaint, you can still see it here (the text is crossed out).

Verizon has been keen to expand its advertising business, which was the motivation behind buying AOL. The company is in the midst of completing its acquisition of Yahoo to gain a big-enough audience of users for those ads.

Updated at 10 a.m. PT: To note that the EFF has withdrawn its complaint.

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