Samsung’s Device Care app is sending data back to China — but it’s less scary than it sounds

Samsung’s Device Care app is sending data back to China — but it’s less scary than it sounds

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/ The Verge

On January 6th, a pole appeared on Reddit’s largest Android forum with horrifying story: “Chinese spyware pre-installed on all Samsung phones.”

“I know the title is rather astounding, ” the author clarified, “however it couldn’t get any closer to the truth.”

The problem was a utility in Samsung’s Device Care application, a mandatory boast that comes preinstalled as part of Samsung’s Android implementation that cannot be removed. Using packet analysis tools on a Galaxy S1 0, the author detected some strange congestion coming out of Device Care’s storage scanner, which looks for junk files that can be deleted to free up space. That scanner was referring data back to Chinese orbits — and because storage scanners generally need be made available to all of the enters on your computer, the data could include almost anything.

“The storage optimization process … is fully managed by Samsung’s device care solution.”

There was an immediate explanation in the pole, but it wasn’t alone reassuring. The scanner utility was established in collaboration with Qihoo 360, a Chinese protection busines that has sometimes represented headlines for complying with national censoring mandates. But it wasn’t clear from the scan which data was being sent back to Qihoo and why, which led the Redditor to worry about spyware. And since the app was built into Samsung’s operating system, there is no way for concerned useds to remove it.

According to Samsung, the truth is less alarming than it performs. The firm says the only data sent back to Qihoo is generic information needed to optimize storage — specifically reputation OS version, telephone framework, and storage faculty, among other data. Qihoo’s main contribution is a reference library for identifying junk enters, but that library is placed locally in the utility, and Qihoo never receives data that would allow it to identify a particular file on a user’s device.

“Samsung makes the protection of our users’ data very seriously, and we design our produces with privacy and security top-of-mind, ” a company representative told The Verge. “The storage optimization process, including the scanning and removal of waste folders, is fully managed by Samsung’s device care solution.”

Still, the fight is a reminder of the intense nervousness bordering Chinese tech companies and the broader concerns around international antivirus houses, similar to the scandal that engulfed the Russia-based Kaspersky Labs in 2017. As concerns about Huawei and other Chinese equipment firms come to a heyday in Washington, it’s only natural that Qihoo partnerships might turn a few heads. And while Samsung’s explanation checks out, it may not be enough to quiet all of the doubts on/ r/ Android.

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