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Android smartphone makers are quietly making Facebook impossible to delete

A new deal between several Android smartphone makers and Facebook means users won’t be able to delete the social media app. 

The agreement means the Facebook app will come pre-installed on Android devices. Users will be able to disable the app so that it disappears from view, but won’t be able to permanently remove it.

Apps that come pre-installed on smartphones and computers are popularly referred to as bloatware or crapware.

It is unclear which devices will be affected, but users of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Huawei’s P20 Pro have already reported Facebook cannot be removed. This is also the case on my Galaxy S9.

Bloatware is a common feature on Android phones but is usually specific to an individual manufacturer. For example, the Razer Phone 2 comes preinstalled with dedicated gaming apps native to Razer devices.

The difference here is that Razer’s gaming apps haven’t been exposing user data to companies around the world like Facebook has.

Facebook has refused to disclose how many agreements have been made with smartphone manufacturers and has not released any financial figures surrounding the agreements. It’s safe to assume lots of money changed hands.

A Facebook spokesperson said the deal has been agreed upon to bring Android users “the best” smartphone experience. The spokesperson also claimed that when disabled, the app may as well be deleted, meaning that it doesn’t collect data or send information to Facebook.

Considering Facebook’s dubious relationship with being honest and transparent and its history of data collection, users can be forgiven for accepting Facebook’s statement with apprehension.

This deal doesn’t come at the best time for Facebook and Android. A report by Privacy International last week found that Facebook tracks Android users – even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

“Facebook routinely tracks users, non-users and logged-out users outside its platform through Facebook Business Tools,” the report reads. 

“App developers share data with Facebook through the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of software development tools that help developers build apps for a specific operating system.”

23 of the 34 popular Android apps analysed in the study were found to send data to Facebook the second they were opened. The apps included Duolingo, Indeed and Skyscanner.

Facebook told Privacy International sharing data is “common practice” and useful for both users and companies.

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