The new Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 seem like great phones. I’m not a big fan of foldable phones, but even I think the Z Flip 4 is probably the “funniest” phone we’ve ever seen, and I completely understand its appeal. But there’s one thing in particular about the two that bothers me: Samsung’s new partnership with Meta.
You probably have no idea it’s a thing, but at very fine of the Unpacked event, I noticed a slide on the big screen that shows Samsung’s official partners. We see this a lot from every phone company when they launch a new product, so it’s not surprising. What surprised me was seeing Meta there.
We reached out to Samsung and Meta, and confirmed that there is indeed a special new partnership between the two with the launch of the Galaxy ZFlip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4. On the consumer side, it’s a way to use Flexcam mode – where you bend the phone in a way that acts like a kickstand to use the cameras – in Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
The consumer side isn’t what concerns me, though. It’s cool that you can do that from day one with Meta’s apps, but it also means that Meta could have access to more of your data than it normally would, as it is one of those partners that Samsung can share data with.
“Could” is the key word for now. There’s no way to know what kind of data is shared with Meta, or if it’s more than the company already collects from everyone who uses Instagram or WhatsApp. But knowing it’s possible is worrying – Samsung will be selling a bunch of foldables in 2022 – 2023 and the last thing Meta needs is more data from all of them.
Partnerships and data sharing are a general concern. All companies want our data because they can make money from it, one way or another, but some companies have a good track record of using it. Samsung is one such company.
When you first set up a Samsung phone, you’re asked to agree to a few different Samsung policies that you probably haven’t bothered to read. What they’re saying, in a nutshell, is that Samsung will collect some of your data, while other things won’t be passed on (things like health data or religion or sexual orientation), but he promises to take good care of it. It may use this data to improve its phones, applications and services, and it may share some of your data with partners it trusts.
I trust Samsung to hold its end of the market the same way I trust Apple, Microsoft, and even Google. These companies collect data and only use it in the way we have agreed.
The same cannot be said for Meta, whose breaches of public trust are both legendary and too numerous to list. Don’t forget that this company has enabled others to interfere with US elections in exchange for money. I don’t care which side of the political aisle you are on, you have to agree that Facebook has no business. It used our supposedly private user data to do so.
Now Samsung, a company we can trust (as long as you can trust any tech company, anyway) gives the impression that it trusts Meta. Maybe it’s not and the company knows it’s possible that Meta is abusing our data, but having Meta as a partner involved this trust.
Having Instagram and other assorted Meta apps pre-installed in the OS gives them a higher level of permissions. Even if you uninstall them, these important things built into the operating system remain behind.
I know to a lot of people I look like a grumpy old man who should be wearing a tinfoil hat and you have nothing to hide. I also know this is one of the times I’m right, and the collection and abuse of our private data is a terrible problem. You don’t have to worry about it, but allow others to worry about it on your behalf.
I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t buy a Flip 4 or a Fold 4, because either is probably one of the best android phones you can buy now. I’m just reminding everyone that Meta cannot be trusted because it has shown us time and time again not to be trusted with our personal data.
Maybe the company is trying to recover, and in the future we won’t see privacy scandal after scandal. If so, we may also change our trust level. Hopefully the concerns here are all unwarranted, as Samsung will ensure that Meta cannot misuse our data.
Until then, know what you’re getting into.