Samsung just gave Yahoo! another chance to play fast and loose with millions of users’ data
There are three billion reasons why Samsung allowing Yahoo! apps on your phone is a bad idea.
In a perfect world, allowing three billion user accounts to be hacked would mean a business is forced to shut down and its assets shared with the victims. In the real world, it means the people in charge of it are able to sell for huge amounts of cash and the new owners can force their way onto your brand new phone. That’s exactly what just happened now that Samsung has decided that it needs even more money and is forcing Yahoo! down the throat of Verizon Galaxy S9 buyers. (The deal includes preloading these Oath-branded apps on Verizon-sold Galaxy phones, but it also allows Bixby and other Samsung services to use Oath services like Yahoo! News as sources.)
User data and digital advertising is big money. Sometimes big enough to stop caring for your customers.
In 2013, Yahoo! was hacked and one billion accounts were compromised. In 2014, the same thing happened and another 500 million accounts were affected. The company didn’t bother to say anything until 2016. In 2017, they admitted that it was actually three billion accounts compromised — that’s every single Yahoo! account that existed at the time.
That didn’t seem to bother Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who said “we all live in an internet world, it’s not a question of if you’re going to get hacked but when you are going to get hacked,” and proceeded to buy the company for $4.5 billion, changing the name to Oath in hopes that you wouldn’t realize. Thankfully, Verizon’s efforts to dismiss multiple lawsuits and federal investigations into the attacks were shot down and they get to be responsible for the thing they should have never bought.
Fast forward to the here and now, and we find out that Samsung has reached a deal with Verizon to force install four Yahoo! apps onto the Galaxy S9 as system apps in the hopes that you’ll use them and feed more data into Yahoo’s gaping maw. Reactions are what you would expect: nobody is happy (although the ever-present group that thinks Samsung can do no wrong is alive and well, as is the group that thinks Samsung is some sort of demon rather than a tech company) but nobody seems to care. At least nobody who should care seems to care. User response is also fairly anemic, with “you can disable them” being the usual response even though they are system-level apps that will have already started running before you can do anything about it.
I’ll be frank — Samsung’s style of software turns me off and I don’t plan on using a Galaxy S9. I’m also not a Verizon customer. But I do hold both companies to a higher standard because of their position in mobile and because we have seen both do the right thing many times. Not this time, though. This time the two companies show that a small percentage of extra profit means much more than your privacy. And that, frankly, stinks.
Big companies are supposed to make big money but there should be limits on how.
Corporations aren’t inherently bad. They exist as a way to create money for investors and owners the same way most of us work to collect a paycheck. Corporations are supposed to do things that make more money and should explore every opportunity in good faith. In turn, they should also value their customers and say no sometimes. When news of these breaches started to become public (and were grossly under-reported by Yahoo!), I said Verizon should bail on their plans to buy Yahoo! because it and its customers deserved better. It didn’t. Now I’m saying Samsung should reconsider plopping Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Newsroom and Go90 on one of the best phones money can buy. It won’t.
I can’t believe that nobody at Samsung knows Yahoo’s history, or that Verizon has to keep its tainted infrastructure in place so that Yahoo! can continue to operate. Since Samsung obviously knows that every single Yahoo! customer account was hacked and still wants to prominently place these apps on its flagship phone, I can’t help but think it feels money is more important than your privacy.
If you just bought a Galaxy S9 and find it’s littered with Yahoo! trash, or when your phone is updated and Yahoo! trash arrives along with, spend $2.49 to buy Package Disabler Pro and rid your phone of it as quickly as you can. If you’re in the market for a new phone, keep this in mind before any company gets your money.
In fact, maybe consider buying into a platform where the developers have some control instead of one where phone makers can do as they please. I very much dislike using an iPhone, but am finding it difficult to recommend Android to users because of shenanigans like this.
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