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Popular Android apps are sharing data with Facebook without consent

03 January, 2019, 01:03 | Author: Tara Roberts
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Privacy International found that 23 of the apps it tested sent data to Facebook - data which tells the social network that a user has opened or closed a specific app, along with information about the device, and language and time zone settings.

Facebook has been in hot water since early previous year when it was revealed that the company exposed data of around 87 million users to a Cambridge Analytica researcher, who was working for the Trump campaign.

Privacy International, a London-based charity that focuses on improving people's personal privacy, examined 34 popular Android apps, each installed from 10 to 500 million times, between August and December 2018.

"We were not aware that data was being sent to Facebook in this way without prior consent from our users, which went against our own internal rules on the integration of third-party technologies". But the developers were initially unable to stop their apps from sharing the "SDK initialized" data with Facebook, simply because the option wasn't there.

We found that at least 61 percent of apps we tested automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app.

Why it matters: Facebook is still tracking what apps a user opens even if they don't have a Facebook account.

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While most of the shared data might not immediately identify the user, it could theoretically be used to recognize someone through other means, such as the apps they have installed or whether they travel with the same person.

A study has revealed that close to 20 Android apps on Play Store automatically send the user's data to Facebook without their consent, raising privacy concerns. "If combined, data from different apps can paint a fine-grained and intimate picture of people's activities, interests, behaviors, and routines, some of which can reveal special category data, including information about people's health or religion", the report states.

It makes no difference if people are logged out of Facebook, or don't have an account. One example is travel search app Kayak, which sends Facebook detailed information about users' flight searches, including data like departure/arrival date, city and airport as well as number and class of tickets. We ensure that these policies are accessible from each page on Facebook, and that users can access and read these policies when they sign up to Facebook or during updates to these policies'.

"It is hard to protect yourself from the kind of data sharing that we have described in this report", Privacy International said.

What is perhaps most worrying is that there is no way to tell just how Facebook is using the data that is collected in this rather underhand manner.

Facebook has reportedly corrected the issue through a new version of its developer kit, but these apps have yet to implement it, or at least aren't implementing it properly, Engadget reports.

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