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Samsung developing Context, a service that gathers user data and shares it with other apps

February 11, 2014
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Samsung is said to have created a service that collects data like the text you type and the apps you use and shares it with other applications.

The report comes from The Information’s Jessica Lessin and is rather light on details. Moreover, the service might not even make it to a product, as Samsung is said to be debating internally its potential benefits and drawbacks.

Dubbed Context, the service monitors everything the user does on the mobile device, including text input, app usage, and even information from the phone’s sensors. The plan is to make this information, or at least part of it, accessible to app developers so they can improve their apps and better tailor them to the user. One example that The Information offers is an app that would know that the user frequently looks up sports info and would display sports videos automatically based on this information.

If this use case sounds familiar is because Google does something similarly with Google Now, which taps into information from calendars, email, Chrome, Google Plus, and more to create a basic virtual assistant. However, Google does not share all that data with third-party app developers and doesn’t keep track of what you are typing.

If Samsung decides to go ahead with Context, it will need to put some solid safeguards in place to ensure that developers can’t break user privacy. Even so, the backlash may be more that Samsung could stomach, in a day and age when people are increasingly sensitive to violations of privacy.

The Information’s report goes on to confirm the discussions between Samsung and Google on limiting the amount of customization that the Korean company operates on Android. In contrast with the original Re/code report, The Information suggests that the discussions have not reach an outcome and that they were quite tense. The talks reportedly took place just a day ahead of the announcement of the Motorola sale, so they could still be ongoing.