Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Samsung Galaxy Buds
Samsung offers many versions of their Galaxy earbuds. There's the Buds2, Buds Pro, Buds Live, and Buds+. That's a lot of Buds. And these tiny earbuds come in lots of shiny colors. They do the things earbuds do: sound good, cancel noise, let in ambient noise if you want, pair with a phone or computer over Bluetooth, get lost easily. You can use the Find My Earbuds feature in the app to help find them, but only if they are already connected to your phone, so don't lose these little guys if their battery is dead or you're more than 32 feet away. Oh, and FYI, Samsung is pretty bad at privacy, so maybe it's better if you lose these little guys after all.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Like most companies that like to collect a lot of data, they may share some of that data all kinds of places -- with affiliates, business partners, marketing partners, and “data analytics providers.” They also reserve the right to sell your data for advertising purposes. Tisk tisk. They also say they can share information about you “to law enforcement authorities … if required or permitted to do so by law or legal process.” Hmm. Since it’s not usually illegal to share your data, that wording leaves the door open for your information to be shared pretty much at their discretion.
Oh, and parents, if you have a child please don't create a Samsung account for them. As we mention above, what Samsung says they can collect and share on your child if you create an account for this is crazy. They say they can collect things like video, images, geolocation information, health information, calls and messages. And then they go on to say they can use that information about your child for things like " delivering content and responses tailored to your child and the way your child interacts with the services and features," and the broadly defined "To operate, evaluate and improve our business, including developing new products and services, managing our communications, analyzing our services and customer base, aggregating and anonymizing data, performing data analytics and undertaking accounting, auditing and other internal functions." That's not all though. They also say they can share your child's information with subsidiaries, affiliates, service providers, and "our business partners, such as wireless carriers, as well as third parties who operate apps and services that connect with certain Child Services". This all seems like a lot of potential collection and sharing of your child's personal information that you probably don't want collected and sold. Poor form, Samsung, and the many others who share personal data willy nilly.
Speaking of “nilly,” Samsung also accidentally leaked sensitive data to ChatGPT in early 2023 when their employees reportedly pasted code into the AI chatbot asking for help -- to check and optimize it. Samsung banned its use on all company devices and devices that connect to their network when they found out. It’s a good reminder for everyone that what you share with ChatGPT and most other chatbots is not private.
What could go wrong? Well, Samsung likes to show ads tailored to you through various ad networks, and say they do a lot of tracking of your online activities to do so. These headphones come with a voice assistant named Bixby that will listen for your voice commands. Samsung may use your interactions with Bixby to learn more about you and then target you with ads or share this data with others who may use it to target you. That means it's possible that if you keep asking Bixby the same question over and over again, Samsung might “infer” that you have a bad memory (rude) and then target you with a bunch of ads for herbal remedies that make you doubt yourself. Not cool. OK, this is probably not likely, but also not impossible in our digital ad economy. Also, there are way worse things that could happen with all the huge amounts of data that Samsung collects on you. Especially given there not so great track record at protecting all that data.
Tips to protect yourself
- Use privacy settings for Galaxy
- Consider using your headphones without connecting it to an app. This way, you may decrease amount of data collected
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images, location unless neccessary)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device usually does not erase your personal data.
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data if possible.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Identifiers: identifiers such as a real name, alias, postal address, unique personal identifier (such as a device identifier; cookies, beacons, pixel tags, mobile ad identifiers and similar technology; customer number, unique pseudonym, or user alias; telephone number and other forms of persistent or probabilistic identifiers), online identifier, internet protocol address, email address, account name, and other similar identifiers. Additional Data Subject to Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.80: signature, bank account number, credit card number, debit card number, and other financial information Protected Classifications: characteristics of protected classifications under California or federal law, such as age and sex. Location information: Information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, cell towers, and, with your separate consent, your device’s GPS signal, may be transmitted to us when you use certain Services. In addition, for certain Services, zip codes or postal codes and inferred locations using IP addresses may be transmitted to us when you use such Services. Inferences: inferences drawn from any of the information identified above to create a profile about you reflecting your preferences, characteristics, and behavior (for example, when you use the Customization Service or in connection with personalized ads served to you).
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In early 2022, Samsung fell victim to the Lapsus$ cybergang, which boasted to have stolen 190 Gb of data from the tech giant. The data breach notice conspicuously notes that the breach “did not impact Social Security numbers or credit and debit card numbers.”TechCrunch asked Samsung if it collects and stores Social Security numbers and that this data is unaffected, but the company declined to say — only that the issue “did not impact” Social Security numbers. Samsung collects Social Security numbers as part of its financing options and as a requirement for users of Samsung Money.
In February, 2020, Samsung had a data breach on it UK customer account pages, affecting less than 150 people.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Trying to find, navigate, read, and understand's Samsung's various privacy policies is a nightmare.
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Voice recognition, if a user uses Bixby, a Samsung-specific AI-assistant, or Google Assistant
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Galaxy users, take note: Samsung's probably selling your dataJR Raphael
Samsung Bans Staff’s AI Use After Spotting ChatGPT Data LeakBloomberg
Samsung bans use of generative AI tools like ChatGPT after April internal data leakTechCrunch
How Samsung Galaxy Cameras Combine Super Resolution Technologies With AI Technology to Produce High-Quality Images of the MoonSamsung Mobile Press
Samsung cops to data leak after unsolicited '1/1' Find my Mobile push notificationThe Register
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