The new Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 look like they are great phones. I'm not a big fan of foldable phones, but even I think the Z Flip 4 is probably the "funnest" phone we've ever seen, and completely understand its appeal. But there is one thing in particular about both of them that bothers me: Samsung's new partnership with Meta.
You probably have no idea this is a thing, but at the very end of the Unpacked event, I noticed a slide on the big screen that shows Samsung's official partners. We see that a lot from every phone company when they release a new product, so it's not surprising. What did surprise me was seeing Meta there.
We reached out to both Samsung and Meta, and confirmed that there is indeed a special/new partnership between the two with the launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4. On the consumer-facing side, it's a way to use the Flexcam mode — where you fold the phone in a way that acts as a kickstand to use the cameras — in Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
The consumer side isn't what causes me concern, though. It's cool that you can do this 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 because it's one of those partners that Samsung can share data with.
"Could" is the key word for now. There is no way of knowing what sort of data is being 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 worrisome — Samsung will sell a bunch of foldables in 2022 - 2023 and the last thing Meta needs is more data from every one of them.
Partnerships and data sharing is a concern all around. All companies want our data because they can make money with it, one way or another, but some companies have a good track record when it comes to using it. Samsung is one of those companies.
When you first set up a Samsung phone, you're asked to agree with a couple different Samsung policies that you almost certainly didn't bother to read. What they say, in a nutshell, is that Samsung will collect some of your data, while other things are hands off (things like health data or religion or sexual orientation), but it promises to take good care of it. It can use this data to make it's phones, apps, and services better, and it can share some of your data with partners that it trusts.
I trust Samsung to keep its part of the bargain the same way I trust Apple, Microsoft, and even Google. These companies collect data and only use it in ways that we have agreed with.
The same can't be said about Meta, whose violations of public trust are both legendary, and too many to list. Remember, this company allowed others to interfere with U.S. 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 being involved. It used our supposedly private user data to do it.
Now Samsung, a company we can trust (as far as you can trust any tech company, anyway) is giving the impression that it trusts Meta. Maybe it doesn't and the company knows that there is a possibility that Meta would abuse our data, but having it as a partner implies that trust.
Having Instagram and other assorted Meta applications pre-installed in the operating system gives them a higher level of permissions. Even if you uninstall them, those important bits that are baked in to the OS stay behind.
I know that, to a lot of people, I sound like a cranky old man who should wear a tinfoil hat and that you have nothing to hide. I also know this is one of the times I am right, and the collection and abuse of our private data is a terrible problem. You don't have to care, but allow others to care 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 right now. I'm just reminding everyone that Meta can not be trusted because it has shown us over and over again that it shouldn't be trusted with our personal data.
Perhaps the company is trying to right itself, and moving forward we won't see scandal after scandal when it comes to privacy. If so, we can likewise change our level of trust. Hopefully, the concerns here are all unwarranted because Samsung will make sure Meta can't abuse our data.
Until then, please know what you're getting yourself into.
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