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Samsung could be using invisible ways to track what you’re doing on your phoneby Daniel Bean
TechTrends

UPDATE: Samsung released a statement to the Daily Mail explaining that its smartphones do not use the ultrasonic beacon tracking technology described below, only "pixel" beacon technology.

"We would like to assure our customers that ultrasonic beacon technology is not embedded on Samsung mobile devices.

"Our privacy policy on beacons applies to the use of web beacons, a technology that is widely used across the industry and differs significantly to that of ultrasonic beacons."

ORIGINAL STORY: Love your new Galaxy phone? Well it turns out it could be using undetectable methods to track the content you’re consuming -- inside and outside the phone itself.

How do these methods work? Thanks to invisible "pixel" tracker beacons inside of websites and emails and ultrasonic sound beacons embedded in things like TV shows and commercials, picked up by the phone’s microphone, Samsung can track what you're reading and viewing on the phone and what content you’ve come into contact with in the real world.

Ultrasonic beacons usually require that a phone's microphone be on all the time to read them. Since the beacons come in the form of high-pitch frequencies, they aren't easily heard by the naked ear.

Oh, and since all of this is spelled out in the company's two-year-old-plus privacy policy, this all may have been going on via various Samsung smartphone models since as far back as early 2015.

That, of course, means that if you have a Samsung phone and a Samsung account for it, then, believe it or not, you’ve actually agreed to this data tracking.

The existence of Samsung's beacon tracking schemes became a bit more public after a recent report by The Sun pointed them out.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the UK's Open Rights Group who gave comment for The Sun report, told Circa that these newly uncovered tracking methods are helping Samsung phones detect what users are consuming "in all kinds of environments it wasn’t previously able to."

Since Samsung's beacon tracking system is mentioned in its privacy policy -- what you must acknowledge and agree with in order to set up a Samsung account on your Galaxy phone or tablet -- then it's fair game for Samsung to utilize.

Consensual or not, privacy advocates believe that Samsung needs to be more transparent about how it’s using the data haul -- which could ultimately attach the media you come into contact with in and around the phone to your identity.

"Since Samsung knows who you are, it’s a closer identification than even on internet browsers," Killock warned. "They need to explain how this is being marketed to companies."

Samsung was in privacy advocates’ crosshairs two years ago when it was found that the fine print attached to its smart TVs implied those devices could record conversations happening near them.

Samsung told CNET then that its TVs were only listening when a mic icon was on screen and that the company ultimately was not “retain[ing] voice data or sell[ing] it."

The gadget maker today, however, hasn't provided any clarity on these newest, and most cleverly indiscreet yet, beacon tracking systems connected to its phones.