This is what privacy-leery smartphone users fear. Some Samsung devices send their owners’ photos to contacts randomly and without trace.
The clandestine nature of the defect prompts worries over unintended encroachments onto users’ lives in a time when the digital world has come under increased scrutiny of its handling of – or rather inability to fully protect – individual privacy.
News of the breach first appeared on Samsung’s forums and Reddit and were hastily picked up by tech website Gizmodo, as more and more incidents emerged on the social platform. Fortunately for millions of Samsung users, the glitch appears to have affected only the latest models of Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9 Plus.
Users have reported that the problem originates with Samsung’s stock texting app, which is the default messaging platform for Galaxy devices.
It is yet unclear how many people have detected the bug, much because it makes no record when it sends photos to others. Users only learned of the hitch when sendees told them.
“We are aware of the reports regarding this matter and our technical teams are looking into it. Concerned customers are encouraged to contact us directly at 1–800-SAMSUNG,” the South Korean phone manufacturer said in a statement.
One Redditor wrote about his Galaxy S9 Plus phone shooting over his entire gallery to his girlfriend in the middle of the night. The messaging app showed no indication of the dispatch, but the user’s carrier logs had documented it.
“Some pics are meant to be private, and I can see this destroying relationships, and even potential job losses,” another Reddit poster commented on the thread.
Some speculated that a recent T-Mobile update could have triggered the malfunction, but since then Bleeping Computer reported that it is not contained to a single data carrier. Rather, it seems related to Rich Communication Services upgrades to old-fashioned SMS protocols that aim to streamline media sharing, read receipts, and typing indicators.
T-Mobile has responded to media requests, stating that it is not a “T-Mobile issue” and urging users to contact Samsung.
The overhaul also coincides with a new version of the Samsung Messages app, which could possibly be further conflating the matter.
Samsung has not yet provided a solution, but several quick actions appear to offer a temporary fix. One of them is switching to a different messaging app. Another one is rescinding Samsung Messages’ access to the phone’s photo storage.