The unboxing of new gadgets is supposed to be exciting. While that new gadget smell is pretty great, excitement often turns to frustration when the previously proud new owners discover a bunch of bloatware clogging up their shiny new tech. Bloatware is that software consumers generally don’t want or need, but comes preinstalled on a new device thanks to partnerships forged between phone and app manufacturers.
While mobile phone manufacturer Samsung has distanced itself from massive amounts of bloatware, their new phones still include built-in apps that can’t be deleted. It turns out Facebook is one of those apps – and people are pissed.
According to Bloomberg, some phones, such as the Galaxy S8, come with a Facebook app preinstalled. The app can be disabled but not deleted. What does it even mean to simply disable an app?
It is unclear how many phones are shipped to consumers this way or when the deal leading to the app’s preinstallation was made.
One Galaxy S8 owner had this to say:
“It just absolutely baffles me that if I wanted to completely get rid of Facebook that it essentially would still be on my phone, which brings up more questions. Can they still track your information, your location, or whatever else they do? We the consumer should have say in what we want and don’t want on our products.”
Thankfully, tech consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their digital rights and the issue of online and tech privacy, partly thanks to Facebook’s tumultuous 2018 and their near constant slip-ups. As a result, some social media users have gone so far as to delete social media apps from their phones or delete their Facebook accounts altogether, in protest of the glaring problems with the social media giant’s information-sharing practices. Herein lies the problem for some Samsung phone owners – after deleting their actual Facebook accounts, they’re still left with the app on their phones.
This has led many Android phone users to question why Samsung made a deal with the social media giant to install a permanent version of Facebook on their phones. Some have, ironically, taken to social media to complain:
— benn achilleas (@mrbennbenn) December 22, 2018
Why can't I delete @facebook from my @SamsungMobile device? I can only "disable" the app. Def don't trust it and can't wait for my @google Pixel 2 so I don't have to deal with Samsung BS modifications to the OS. #DeleteFacebook https://t.co/VVJdE81f9L
— YuriyM (@yuriym) March 25, 2018
My real concern about data collection and Facebook is why I can't fully delete the Facebook app and only disable it on my Samsung Galaxy phone without using complicated methods. #samsung #Zuckerberg #privacy
— LETCASTER (@Letcaster) April 11, 2018
@samsung I want to delete my Facebook account from my Samsung 7 edge. If I can't delete it I will buy another brand phone and this will be my last Samsung. Please update the software and give us the option to remove Facebook ASAP.#byebyefacebook #samsung
— Moritz (@moritzkooistra) April 11, 2018
This is no joke, I disabled both facebooks apps that ATT stuck on my Samsung S9+. Can't delete the apps. My firewall shows phone still trying to get to facebook. @ATT refuses to answer why they are spying.
— Obama Lied (@AmericaDied) May 13, 2018
I noticed on my Samsung S8 active, you can't really "delete* or uninstall Facebook from the phone. All you can do is disable it. Which worries me.
— MBK but in Space (@poetgambler) December 6, 2018
A spokesperson for Facebook told Bloomberg that the disabled app “acts like it’s been deleted.” This implies that it doesn’t continue to collect data or communicate with Facebook, but how can the user be sure? While Facebook did admit that deals are made between phone manufacturers, and operating system and mobile operators around the world, the social media giant did not disclose the financial nature of the agreement with Samsung or any other company.
Communication between both phone manufacturers and carriers and their customers has always been lacking. This situation is no different – consumers are not informed of what may be on their new phone or of what may not be removable prior to purchase.
Twitter’s app also comes preinstalled on some phones, but Twitter has publicly stated that it won’t collect any data unless a user is logged into their accounts. It is already known that Facebook collects data and tracks non-users, leading many phone owners to rightly question if they are be tracked even after the app is disabled. A new report revealed just last week that many apps send data to Android devices without consent and even if the user doesn’t have a Facebook account.
However, the customer isn’t informed about any of this before a purchase is made. A report last week said that many top apps send data to Facebook from Android devices without the user’s consent, and that happens even if a person doesn’t have a Facebook account.
Other phone manufacturers, including LG, Sony, Verizon, and AT&T, have made similar deals with app creators. While Apple,maker of the popular iPhone, doesn’t preinstall Facebook or any third-party app on its phones, the company has come under fire for not allowing users to delete apps in the past.
Consumer-advocacy groups are skeptical of arrangements between manufacturers and app creators. According to Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy:
“It’s only recently that people have become to understand that these apps really power the spy in your pocket. Companies should be filing public documents on these deals, and Facebook should turn over public documents that show there is no data collection when the app is disabled.”
At least one Galaxy user is considering purchasing a phone made by a different manufacturer when the time comes:
“I understand Samsung is trying to make it easy for the user, but I don’t like that it does not allow me to uninstall.”
He probably isn’t alone in that sentiment.