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Facebook literally can’t be deleted on some Samsung phones

Jan. 9, 2019 Updated Wed., Jan. 9, 2019 at 8:04 p.m.

 (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)
(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)
By Hamza Shaban Washington Post

Facebook will always be around, at least for some people who own Samsung smartphones.

Some Samsung devices come preloaded with a Facebook app that owners can’t remove; the app can only be disabled.

Facebook told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the disabled version of the app acts as if it has been deleted and does not collect data about a user’s activity or send information to the social network. But that may sound like cold comfort to users who don’t want Facebook on their phones, or to other app developers whose software doesn’t come automatically installed on popular smartphones.

Facebook said it has partnerships with other phone manufacturers, mobile operators and operating systems to pre-install its app. But the company would not disclose the names of the other companies it has such agreements with and declined to share the financial details of the partnerships. Facebook said the pre-installed app allows users to hop on the social network right out of the box.

Bloomberg first reported on the preinstalled app.

Samsung told the Post on Wednesday: “We’re providing a preloaded Facebook app on select smartphone models with the option to disable it. The app is no longer running when it is disabled.”

That the Facebook app can’t be removed from certain phones is especially significant. The company has faced a public backlash over its data privacy controversies and the perceived negativity on the platform. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 1 in 4 Americans have deleted the Facebook app from their phones.

Preloading software that users didn’t explicitly ask for isn’t unique to Samsung, and app developers besides Facebook have similar partnerships with hardware manufacturers. As Bloomberg noted, T-Mobile customers who use the Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone will find dozens of preloaded apps on their device – Facebook and Amazon among them. T-Mobile also lists a host of Google apps pre-installed on the phone, including YouTube, Gmail and Chrome. Google’s Android operating system is the software that powers the phone.

Apple’s iPhone comes with many built-in Apple apps. While they can be deleted using the latest version of the operating system, an earlier iteration doesn’t allow users to delete built-in apps; they can only be removed from the home screen.

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