Bloomberg recently published an investigation that brought to light the impossibility of deleting the Facebook app from certain mobile devices. The article opens with the story of Nick Winke, a photographer who became aware of the issue after reading about it on online forums. When Winke tried to delete the app from his phone, he discovered that the best he could do was to disable it.
“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,” Winke is quoted as saying in the Bloomberg article. “Can they still track your information, your location, or whatever else they do?”
Winke is the owner of a Samsung Galaxy S8, but Samsung isn’t the only company that engages in this practice. In fact, according to Facebook, whether the app can be removed or not depends on the deal between the company and the device manufacturer, the OS, and the mobile operator.
It Can Be Anyone
It must be noted that there is no official list of phones that have a non-removable, pre-installed Facebook app. Facebook also refuses to disclose the financial aspects of these agreements.
And though Facebook claimed that disabling the app kills all of its activities and communications – i.e. no data collection – privacy activists are still skeptical of the behavior.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said that “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.”
It’s also important to note that Facebook isn’t the only company that has its app preloaded onto phones. Google preinstalls its suite of apps – YouTube, Gmail, Maps, and so on – on Android devices. US carriers also – T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Communications Inc. – have similar deals in place. But it’s no surprise that the backlash is hardest against Facebook, a company that spent the better half of last year apologizing for privacy-related fiascos.