Galaxy users, take note: Samsung’s probably selling your data

Relying on Google services, as most of us Android-carrying primates do, comes with a certain tradeoff. It’s no big secret or anything: Google makes its money by selling ads, which are more effective when they’re catered to our interests — the subjects we tend to search about, the things we buy (when Google knows about ’em, at least), and often even the places we go with our location-enabled phones in tow (and/or in toe, for the monkeys among us).

That’s all par for the course, as I frequently say — part of the deal we all accept when we use Google services. That’s what makes it possible for Google to give us top-notch apps for free, and it’s also what opens the door to certain advanced features that wouldn’t be possible without that information’s presence.

What you might not realize, though, is that if you’re using an Android phone whose manufacturer makes significant modifications to the operating system or the system-level apps around it — any phone other than a Google-made Pixel or a Google-associated Android One device, really — there’s a decent chance the creator of your phone is adding its own layer of complexity into that arrangement. And even though Google itself doesn’t ever share your data with anyone, the company that creates your phone might be using its position to double-dip and directly profit off the same personal info you assume is protected.

That certainly seems to be the case with Samsung. In addition to making a hefty chunk of change from selling you hardware, Samsung appears to have quietly created an intricate system for collecting different types of data from people who own its phones and then generating extra revenue by selling that data to third parties — or sometimes using the data to power its own self-run ad network. That has the potential to be disconcerting for anyone and particularly red-flag-raising for businesses and enterprises, where information protection is an especially pressing priority.

For all the times I’ve complained about the complexity and confusion created by Samsung’s insistence on gunking up Galaxy phones with redundant versions of Google services, it never occurred to me that part of the reason it was doing that was to dip into user data and turn it into a secondary stream of income. It wasn’t until the crew from XDA Developers noticed a newly present setting in the Samsung Pay app the other day, in fact, that such a notion crossed my mind.

Samsung, as XDA discovered, recently added a toggle into its Pay app’s settings called “Do not sell.” If you find it and activate it — and no, it isn’t activated by default — then and only then, your payment-related data “can be locked away from Samsung Pay partners.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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