Privacy Group: Jay-Z's Samsung App Unfair To Consumers

One million Samsung Galaxy users had an opportunity earlier this month to get a free copy of “Magna Carta,”  Jay-Z's new album, before its official release date.

But to do so, they had to download an app that sought permission to collect a host of information -- far more than was apparently needed. Samsung told users before they installed the app that it would be able to delete USB storage, prevent the phone from sleeping, access location information, phone numbers dialed, and a trove of other data.

Fair trade? The Electronic Privacy Information Center doesn't think so. That organization is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Samsung for failing to tell users why the app sought all that information. “Facts about the purpose for which data was collected would be material to users in their decision to use and install the app,” EPIC alleges in a complaint filed this week. “Samsung’s failure to disclose, or to disclose adequately, the material information ... constitutes a deceptive act or practice.”

EPIC also says that Samsung's practices are unfair because they are at odds with public policy, including the Obama Administration's 2012 privacy report. The administration supports fair information practices, which provide that companies shouldn't collect or retain more data than they need.

The privacy organization says that Samsung should be required to shed any data that was “improperly obtained” from people who installed the app.

No U.S. laws explicitly require companies like Samsung to follow those principles when developing apps. But EPIC alleges that Samsung's failure to follow the principles shows it has acted “unfairly.”

For its part, the company denies that it did anything unfair or deceptive. “Samsung is in no way inappropriately using or selling any information obtained from users through the download process,” the company  reportedly said in a statement.

The FTC historically brings privacy complaints against companies when they deceive consumers by failing to honor written policies. Here, Samsung disclosed the data it wanted to collect, which seems to make it unlikely that the FTC will deem the app deceptive.

Regulators could find that Samsung, though honest with consumers, was nonetheless unfair. But that also seems unlikely, given that the FTC only charges companies with unfairness in extreme situations -- like when a company collects data about consumers' financial transactions without making adequate disclosures.

But even if the FTC doesn't target Samsung, the app's ability to scoop up data has created a public relations headache for the company, and possibly for Jay-Z as well. It also raises legitimate questions about why Samsung, or any other company, would even think to request that much data from people who just want to listen to a few songs on their smartphones.

2 comments about "Privacy Group: Jay-Z's Samsung App Unfair To Consumers".
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  1. Brandon Kirby from intenyears, July 17, 2013 at 8:23 p.m. can't understand why a company would want to collect "that much" information from young, mobile-enabled users that have plenty of discretionary income. You must not be using your imagination well enough...

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 18, 2013 at 6:47 p.m.

    So Samsung in essence paid for people's personal information by giving them the rap without telling them. Does Samsung think it can place the value of that information without asking what the value is first ? Does someone give you a "free" car and then you find out later it cost you your house ? The value of something must be determined upfront. This is can be a nightmare and I hope some good lawyers jump on it. Perhaps someone believes their personal information is worth 10 million dollars and would not have made that deal ? This should go further than the FTC and not just for Samsung and this con.

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