Thanks to the US Congress, Verizon will now provide unlimited spyware to all of their customers

Just a couple of days ago, Republican majority voted in favor of repealing the online privacy rules left by the previous administration. The point of those rules was to limit what ISPs like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast could do with their customers browsing information, app usage history, location data, and whatever they input on websites, including Social Security numbers.

The story so far is that GOP legislators got big donations from the ISPs that range from $8,000 to $150,000, so they obviously did what any politician in their shoes would do, and that is to do the opposite of what the people need.

The rules squashed also required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves *cough YAHOO* *cough*.

But here’s the problem; Verizon already announced new plans to install software (aka spyware) on customers’ devices to track from what they do, to what apps customers have downloaded. The idea, according to them, is to be able to sell you ads. This happened a couple of days after congress passed their legislation.

Verizon’s plan is to use an app launcher and web search utility that they will be rolling out to their subscribers using Android phones in the coming weeks, with no say in the matter. Enter “AppFlash.”

Here’s an excerpt of this app’s privacy policy:

Information we collect is used to deliver, maintain and support AppFlash services; enhance application features; customize and personalize your experiences including the advertisements you see; and provide social network interactions. Location information enhances your AppFlash experience, by, for example, providing nearby restaurant and movie options. Contact information stored on your device is used to facilitate calls you initiate from within the AppFlash experience.

AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices.

Now, some people excuse what the Republican Congress has done by saying that companies like Google and Facebook already record your use on their websites to sell you ads to begin with, but what they’re forgetting is those are “free” services, while we pay ISPs for their service. Now we’ll be both the client and the product. We obviously pay services like Google and Facebook in data and ads, but ISPs doing the same while overcharging for their services is just a dick move.

I wonder if any other ISPs will try the same thing, but I can only assume the first thing people may want to try is no longer rely on their providers to finance a device full of unwanted apps, unless they are willing to root the devices and use a different ROM. Otherwise, there’s always unlocked smart phones from the makers of the devices.

Also, VPN providers have been busy either announcing or replying to potential customers, but the truth of the matter is that it’s an expensive and not ideal long-term solution, especially for regular home usage.

What is most worrisome to me is the possibility of hackers being able to gain access to the ISP’s spying app, and also music/media companies and government agencies getting unlimited access to customer data without restrictions.

[via: eff.org]

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