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Verizon's new pre-installed app will monitor user data for targeted advertising

Verizon is testing a new pre-installed app designed to make app discovery easier for users. Called AppFlash, it is the product of a partnership between Verizon and startup Evie.

AppFlash functions as a search hub on Android that users can access with a right swipe from the home screen. Users can search through listings of restaurants, movies, music, and apps, and jump into a specific app when they find what they're looking for.

AppFlash also provides universal search across all of a user's apps, and suggests new apps users may want to install. AppFlash also uses app virtualization technology, so if a user decides to try out one of the recommended apps, they can test it for up to a minute without installing it.

According to AppFlash's privacy policy, it will collect information such as users' mobile numbers, the device they're using, and the apps they have installed. With user permission, it will also monitor their contacts and location. The data will be shared with Verizon and subsidiaries, such as AOL and Yahoo, to "help provide more relevant advertising."

AppFlash raised some alarms with the Electronic Freedom Foundation, who called the app "spyware" and expressed concern about the possibility of hackers using the app as a backdoor into users' devices. The EFF has since retracted its warnings pending further investigation, as Verizon says AppFlash will only come pre-installed on a single device, the LG K20 V. The app will also be opt-in and easily disabled should customers choose to do so.

Source: TechCrunch via The Verge

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