As Facebook sleepwalks from privacy scandal to privacy scandal, hemorrhaging younger users, it has come up with a solution to the #DeleteFacebook movement - simply don't allow users to delete the app! That is the case on some Samsung devices, where the pre-installed Facebook app can only be "disabled", not removed.
Facebook has signed agreements (the total number of which is still unknown) with smartphone manufacturers to not only pre-install its app but to prevent users from deleting it. The result for consumers is a permanent, undeletable Facebook presence on your smartphone. And that's a deal-breaker for a lot of people.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the devices which reportedly falls under this agreement. We still don't know when this deal was agreed, or for how many Samsung phones it covers, but what is clear is that Facebook can only be disabled on the phone, not deleted.
Given the revelations about how the Facebook app tracks its users and harvests data, that might not be an acceptable compromise for a lot of users. Nick Winke, a photographer who owns an S8 with an uninstallable Facebook app, told Bloomberg: "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.”
“Can they still track your information, your location, or whatever else they do? We the consumer should have say in what we want and don’t want on our products,” added Winke.
Facebook has responded, saying that a disabled app behaves in the same way as a deleted app, meaning it no longer sends data back to Facebook. But if that is the case, why not let users delete it then?
Pre-installed apps are not a new phenomenon. Google apps such as Maps and Gmail have been shipping on Android devices for years. Amazon apps are also installed on some smartphones as part of deals with manufacturers. Twitter comes pre-installed on smartphones too, but the company says it doesn't start collecting data until you sign into your account. Facebook has been caught collecting data on users even if they don't even have an account, nevermind if they are logged in or not.
Jane Wong, a known Facebook tech expert, claimed on Twitter that the pre-installed Facebook app was only a stub version, essentially an empty shell which is not functional.
.— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) 8 January 2018
However, with most users using automatic updates to keep their devices up to date, the stub version argument is not so reassuring. The agreement has to be viewed as anti-consumer, at the very least.
What do you think about not being able to delete Facebook on some Samsung devices? Let us know below the line.