Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
IT | By Darin Griffith

With or Without Facebook, Android sends data to the social network

With or Without Facebook, Android sends data to the social network

The researchers found numerous apps tested were automatically sending data to Facebook as soon as the apps were opened.

A few of the companies highlighted in the study provided a statement to Financial Times, and at least one said it wasn't aware that this type of data was being shared with Facebook.

Despite heavy scrutiny and new privacy laws, a new study reveals that numerous most popular Android apps are still sending user data to Facebook. Meanwhile, numerous Android apps in question are not responding to requests for comment, apart from Skyscanner, which says it wasn't aware it was sending data to Facebook.

Typically, the data that is automatically transmitted first is events data that communicates to Facebook that the Facebook SDK has been initialized by transmitting data such as "App installed" and "SDK Initialized". "More generally, most websites and apps send the same information to multiple companies each time you visit them".

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Facebook and its leadership are coming under intense scrutiny at the moment amid ongoing concern about the tech giant's handling of user data.

"Facebook offers analytics and advertising services to app developers, which help them receive aggregated information about how people engage with their apps - this is a common practice for many companies", Facebook told Privacy International. The data breach eventually caused the political consulting firm to shut down and it also tarnished Facebook's reputation badly, as per Vox.

"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", Privacy International claims. 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.

'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 jobseeker, likely parent, ' the report stated. The update also does not even disable the SDK initialization message in question and the apps are still sending data.

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A new study has found that more apps actually send user data to Facebook without asking permission from users. For instance, Kayak app sends data including destination and flight search, travel dates, and if kids are also travelling.

Furthermore, Privacy International's research showed that the data sharing described above happens even for users who don't have a Facebook account, and have opted out of receiving Facebook cookies (as explained in Facebook's Cookies Policy).

In a story which unfortunately just keeps giving, Facebook has yet again awarded us with a privacy scandal worthy of note.

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