Technology

A Washing Machine with Peculiar Privacy Settings

A Washing Machine with Peculiar Privacy Settings

Samsung’s washing machine app requires access to your camera, contacts, and location, and people are furious about it. These apps designed to control internet-connected dryers and washers require permissions that have been labeled as false, unacceptable, absurd, and horrible. Customers are not happy about this and have expressed their dissatisfaction for years. This comes after a Reddit user complained about their Samsung Smart Washer that wouldn’t work unless it has access to their location, contacts, and camera. This is just one example of the numerous complaints that have been put across. Another Reddit user complained that the machine asks for various permissions such as phone calls, location, media, and contacts after they launch the app. The app will not work until you grant these permissions. The user wondered why a Samsung app like Smart Home would need access to their contacts. These permissions seem seemingly exaggerated. 

Negative Reviews

The Samsung Smart App and the Smart washer have received negative reviews despite having numerous installs from Google Play Store. Due to the various reviews that touch on the unnecessary permissions, the Smart Washer App averages 2.1 stars. One user left a review citing the bogus permissions to the camera, phone, location, and contacts as pointless. They added that the app shuts down when deny permission to one of them. The main concern is about the app spying on people. In other reviews, users termed the permissions as unacceptable, absurd, awful, and pesky. One user went as far as calling it spyware. Smart Home App reviews with 2.7 stars on the Google Play store contain similar complaints concerning permissions. Generally, the complaints address two main issues. First, the apps require unnecessary permissions. Second, the internet of things devices has complicated formerly simple tasks opening up potential security and privacy concerns. 

The Samsung Smart Washer

 So what exactly is the Smart Washer App, and how does it work? The app allows you to remotely control your Samsung drier/washer. It sends updates on the status of the washer/drier and any issues it encounters and suggestions on how to solve them from your smartphone. You can use the app to find solutions to your washer/drier without using the user manual or calling a service center. Before you use the app, it requires permissions for location, phone, camera, and contacts. According to Samsung, it requires location access to search for nearby washer dishes, a phone to call the service center, camera to provide error information after checking the product’s error code using the smart check function. It needs to access your contacts to acquire Samsung account information only. It does not access your address book or any other contacts information. The app is available for download on the Google Play store. It has over seven thousand reviews, over one million downloads, and a review rating of 2.1 stars. 

Privacy and Security Concerns

With increased innovations, people are becoming increasingly sensitive to the information they are giving up in privacy. There is a growing security concern, especially when dealing with big tech companies. For example, there have been cases of Smart TVs, including from Samsung, that have been found listening to users and delivering ads automatically. This issue brought attention to privacy concerns, and tech companies were forced to adapt and do better. For example, Google and Apple now allow their users to view the information in the app. In other cases, a user can individually switch the permissions. Even a new version of Android set to be released will come with a dedicated privacy dashboard. This will enable users to see all the apps that require permissions, what type they are, and revoke them at will. Apple iOS is doing the same thing, but this hasn’t stooped app developers from prompting users to accept unnecessary permissions. 

Need for Access

The Samsung Smart washer app is primarily designed to set the kind of wash cycle you prefer for your clothes. It’s, however, unclear why such an app would require access to your phone contacts, camera, or location. A FAQ section for another Samsung app said that it requires access to your phone’s contact to see whether you have a Samsung account in your phone. The information is helpful to mySamsang for a seamless sign-in process. Samsung failed to give respond when contacted for a comment. Even though many people still use the Smart Home apps and the Smart Washer based on the recent reviews, they have not been updated since the 7th of October last year. This may mean that Samsung may not be supporting them anymore. Samsung now markets a smart washing machine with another app called SmartThingsApp on its US site. This new app requires less invasive permission than the previous ones. The SmartThings app is available on the Google Play store, and on its page, it does not show any required permissions. The page says that users can interact with the app without optimal permissions but with limited functions. The optimal permissions require access to the camera to scan QR codes, the microphone to facilitate voice control features, and contacts to acquire phone numbers and send text message notifications. It also requires access to a location to find nearby devices that use Bluetooth to automatically use GPS. Access to storage is required to transfer content and files on the app files and save data, while access to the phone enables the app to make place calls on smart speakers and display sender’s information when you are sharing content with another device. You can use this new app if you have a Samsung internet-controlled appliance and you do not feel comfortable allowing it access to your contacts. Alternatively, you can just use your washer the traditional way without a phone.

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