15 March 2019
A new report has emerged mentioning that various majorly used Android apps have been found sharing user data with Facebook without consent. Two of the most popular names include consumer reviews platform Yelp and language learning app Duolingo. Other culprits include Indeed job search app, one Bible app, and two Muslim prayer apps.
The report is coming from Privacy International which did similar testing late last year as well. In the initial test, it found a number of major Android apps sharing data with Facebook. This time around, it did the test to check whether anything has changed and it discovered that two-thirds of those apps have now stopped doing so. The biggest players among those who changed their ways include Spotify, KAYAK, and Skyscanner.
But to focus on the latest findings, it is said that all of the culprit apps were found to be sending data to Facebook as soon as they were launched. It was done before the user could even choose to provide or not provide his consent. In fact, the data is shared for even for those who do not have a Facebook account. This is undoubtedly dangerous for all users who have any of these apps installed on their devices.
The report describes the whole process as,
"This is hugely problematic, not just for privacy, but also for competition. The data that apps send to Facebook typically includes information such as the fact that a specific app, such as a Muslim prayer app, was opened or closed. This sounds fairly basic, but it really isn’t. Since the data is sent with a unique identifier, a user’s Google advertising ID, it would be easy to link this data into a profile and paint a fine-grained picture of someone’s interests, identities, and daily routines."
All of these details are similar to a Wall Street Journal report from last month where they also talked about similar behavior. There report found iOS apps exhibiting the same traits where data was being shared with Facebook without telling users. Although, Facebook SDK policies mention that it is up to the particular app developer to ensure that any data collected and shared with Facebook should be done lawfully and with user's consent, it does not actually help any user when it comes to maintaining the data privacy.