Verizon Launches New Private Search Engine In Hopes You've Forgotten Its Terrible Track Record On Privacy
from the ill-communication dept
We’ve noted for some time now how Verizon desperately wants to pivot from dull old broadband provider to sexy, Millennial-focused, video advertising juggernaut. To accomplish this task, Verizon acquired both Yahoo and AOL, smushed them together, then hoped this would be enough to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook. The effort distracted the company from upgrading or repairing much of its fixed-line broadband footprint, since investing in networks isn’t profitable enough, quickly enough, for many on Wall Street.
But Verizon’s pivot hasn’t been going so well. The company’s Go90 video platform, which was supposed to be the cornerstone of the company’s effort, recently fell flat on its face after Verizon spent $1.2 billion on the effort. And the company’s Oath ad network, the combination of AOL and Yahoo, hasn’t been doing much better.
Undaunted, Verizon’s back again with a new effort nobody asked for. The company this week launched a new privacy-centric browser it’s calling OneSearch. According to a Verizon press release, this is all just part of Verizon’s “commitment to transparency and privacy,” and a reflection of the way the company has led the industry on privacy “for decades”:
“In support of our commitment to trust and transparency, we are excited to launch OneSearch, an innovative new online search experience built for privacy-minded searchers…This is in line with our strong commitment to lead the industry over the last couple decades,? added Albers. ?We are excited to evolve further, along with our partners and users, delivering a brand-new, privacy-minded experience for the search ecosystem.”
“In 2016, Verizon struck a $1.35 settlement with the FCC for modifying wireless user data packets to covertly track users around the internet without telling them. It took two years for security researchers to even identify what Verizon was doing, and several more before Verizon finally let users opt out of being tracked in such a fashion.
Verizon has also found itself at the center of a privacy scandal involving consumer location data, which has been hoovered up and sold to a laundry list of often dubious third parties for the better part of the last decade. While Verizon has promised that it stopped collecting such data, that claim has yet to be independently verified by state or federal regulators.”
That’s before you even get to Verizon’s ultra-cozy, no questions asked relationship with the NSA, which eroded consumer trust even further.
Verizon has also lobbied tirelessly to prevent anybody from holding it accountable for these violations. In 2017, Verizon lobbied aggressively to convince Congress to kill some modest broadband privacy rules at the FCC (requiring more transparency over what data is collected and sold) before they could even take effect. Later that same year they successfully lobbied the Trump FCC to effectively neuter its oversight of broadband providers entirely, creating a consumer protection vacuum. Verizon then lobbied to ban states from filling that vacuum and protecting consumers.
Verizon, of course, is trying to get out ahead of renewed calls for federal and state privacy laws, which wouldn’t be occurring in the first place if Verizon hadn’t been such a reckless jackass on the privacy front. Like countless other companies worried about these laws, Verizon is trying to fix its image as a bad actor on the privacy space (“look mom, privacy laws aren’t needed because we’re a model citizen!”), in the process hoping most of you have the memory of a goldfish.
Granted Verizon’s new project has another major obstacle: Verizon itself. Nearly every time Verizon tries to wander outside of its core competency (lobbying the government to crush competition and running networks) it fails (see: Go90, its app store, its ISIS payment platform, Sugarstring tech news site, etc.) because as a government-pampered mono/duopolist, competition, adaptation, and innovation are largely alien constructs.