Privacy International hits out at unconsented Facebook tracking within apps

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Privacy International found that Facebook's developer kit did not give the option of waiting for a user's permission before sending some data until at least four weeks after the introduction of GDPR. After spot testing 34 popular (10-500 million users) Android apps, the group found that 23 of them were sending data over to Facebook without any kind of user consent - and even for those without a Facebook account.

Facebook's Cookies Policy lists two methods that non-Facebook users can use to opt-out, but Privacy International determined they don't actually change what data is sent to Facebook. The report found that some apps are sending to Facebook "incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive" information.

Also conveyed was information about the type of smartphone being used, and the user's suspected location based on time zone and language data. It found that almost two thirds of apps sent data to Facebook as soon as they were launched - and it made no difference whether a user had a Facebook account, or was logged out of a Facebook account.

The tested apps were for Android phones only, not iPhones. The data breach eventually caused the political consulting firm to shut down and it also tarnished Facebook's reputation badly, as per Vox. The data sent makes it possible for Facebook to tell exactly how often individuals use particular apps as well as gathering other data that enables the company to build up detailed profiles about. "For example, an individual who has installed the following apps that we have tested, "Qibla Connect" (a Muslim prayer app), "Period Tracker Clue" (a period tracker), "Indeed" (a job search app), "My Talking Tom" (a children's' app), could be potentially profiled as likely female, likely Muslim, likely job seeker, likely parent", said Privacy International.




"Since receiving your letter, we released an update to our app as a priority which will stop the transmission of data via the Facebook SDK", Skyscanner told Privacy International. Again, this concerns data of people who are either logged out of Facebook or who do not have a Facebook account. For instance, Kayak sends Facebook information about people's flight searches, including their departure city, date, and airport as well as where they plan on going, how long they'd like to stay, and how many people they're travelling with.

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

The legal implications of this are that Facebook's SDK's default implementation violates the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which requires app developers to request consent from users before collecting data.

Now Facebook will just have to figure out you've taken a flight by the airport check-ins and braggy photographs you upload when overseas.

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