Why Reddit Is Losing It Over Samsung’s New Privacy Policy

Why Reddit Is Losing It Over Samsung’s New Privacy Policy

Samsung recently updated it privacy policy for all users with a Samsung account, effective Oct. 1. One Redditor read the policy, did not like what they saw, and shared it to r/android, highlighting what they consider to be the doc’s worst policy points. The thread blew up, with Android users aplenty decrying Samsung’s new policy. But why is everyone so pissed off, and is any of it worth worrying about? Let’s explore.

Samsung’s privacy policy is a bit creepy

From the jump, the new policy doesn’t look good. In fact, it appears downright invasive. There are the standard data giveaways we’ve come to expect: When you create a Samsung account, you must give over personal information like your name, age, address, email address, gender, etc. Par for the course.

However, Samsung also notes it will collect data such as credit card information, usernames and passwords for third-party services, photos, contacts, text logs, recordings of your voice generated during voice commands, and location data, including precise location data as well as nearby wifi access points and cell towers. It might come as a surprise to know a company like Samsung can keep your chat transcripts, contacts, and voice recordings, but there’s precedent: Apple found itself in hot water when third-party contractors revealed they were able to listen in on audio recordings from Siri requests, which included all kinds of personal conversations and activities.

Samsung also tracks your general activity via cookies, pixels, web beacons, and other means. The company claims this tracking is done for a variety of reasons, including remembering your information to avoid you having to retype it in the future, and to better learn how you use their services. To achieve these goals, it collects just about everything there is to know about your device, including your IP address, device model, device settings, websites you visit, and apps you download, among many others. The policy does remind you to adjust your privacy settings if you’re uncomfortable with this default tracking (as if anyone wouldn’t be).

The company says it has a lot of uses for this information, including ad delivery, communication with customers, enhancing their services, improving their business, identifying and preventing fraud and criminal activity, and to comply with “applicable legal requirements.” Further, they reserve the right to share your information with “subsidiaries and affiliates,” “business partners and third-parties,” as well as law enforcement and other authorities. In short, depending on the circumstances, your Samsung data could end up in the hands of a lot of third parties.

But that’s not everything. Under the “Notice to California Residents” section is where the juiciest policies emerge. While most of the info is the same, if broken down in a different way, there is one additional note about data Samsung collects: biometric information. The company doesn’t elaborate, but this entry implies Samsung obtains data from face and fingerprint scans, when traditionally, this information is stored on-device. Apple, for example, doesn’t have access to your face scans on your iPhone. Obviously, this is potentially concerning.

In addition, the California Residents section also discusses what data Samsung sells to third parties. Samsung says in the 12 months before this new policy went into effect, it may have sold data of yours, including device identifiers (cookies, pixel tags, etc.), purchase histories or tendencies, and network activity, including how you interact with websites.

This is really nothing new from Samsung

So far, this seems like a whole lot of yikes. The problem is, it isn’t really new. Most of the language in the Oct. 1 privacy policy update matches previous versions. A commenter in the thread linked to a version of the policy from Jan. 1, 2021, which features all of the most concerning policies, including harvesting biometric data. The truth is, this is Samsung’s status quo.

That doesn’t change how some creepy some of the language in the policy is. If you’re eyeing your Galaxy Z Flip with newfound scepticism, I don’t blame you. Unfortunately, if you dive into the privacy policies for most of your other tech, you’ll be similarly disturbed. Samsung is hardly the only collecting, sharing, and selling your data.

One Redditor does make a great point about the redundancy of privacy violations here. Sure, Google might have similar policies in place, but since Samsung runs Android, you’re really dealing with two meddling companies instead, not one:

Considering the prices for their hardware, the un-removable bloatware that is generally inferior to the Google software, and anti-Right-to-Repair campaigns (and reflections in their hardware), I see no reason to buy their phones over Google’s. I’ll have just one company with intrusive insight into my personal device at a time, thank you.

Lock down your privacy settings

A counterpoint: Samsung makes some great devices, as is arguably the only company developing anything “revolutionary” these days. You can still buy their tech while being privacy-minded. Dive into your device’s privacy settings and max out everything you can. Don’t agree to any data sharing, turn off all available tracking, and lock up your account to the best of your ability. Samsung likely won’t let you turn your Galaxy into a beacon of data security, but you can do a lot better than the default settings.



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