OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Despite all the fuss around data harvesting, there are still major Android apps sucking up data and piping it back to Facebook.
Anti-snooping group, Privacy International kicked out a report that found apps from sizeable companies like Yelp and Duolingo are harvesting data that could be used to identify users and fuel advert tracking.
The data gobbling happens even if users aren't logged into the apps, which also include job search tool Indeed and two Muslim prayer apps.
That data is then blasted back to Facebook even if the user isn't logged into the social network's app on their Android device, or more worryingly, doesn't have a Facebook account at all.
The report sees Privacy International following up on work it did last year which revealed that a host of apps collect and fire data back to Facebook as soon as they're launched. Privacy International claims its efforts and pressure had the likes of Spotify and Skyscanner re-jig their apps to not contact Facebook when they are open.
But retesting other apps showed some hadn't been as active at making privacy-friendly changes.
"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," Privacy International said, explaining why it thinks such data harvesting is a big no-no.
"And since so many apps still send this kind of data to Facebook, this could give the company an extraordinary insight into a large share of the app ecosystem. We know how valuable such information is, because documents released by the UK parliament show how Facebook used its Onavo virtual private network (VPN) app to gather usage data on competitors."
Privacy International says it's taken action to raise these concerns to all the app developers involved and also approached Facebook to urge the social network to change the default behaviours of its software development kit. It also noted it's unfair that Facebook places the onus of responsible data collection on app developers rather than building in protections into its platform.
We approached Facebook for its thoughts on the situation but have yet to hear back.
Facebook has been taking some action to bolster privacy on its Android app by allowing location tracking to be more easily switched off. And it will release a 'clear history' tool later this year for the privacy-conscious to purge the Facebook data third-party apps and sites have hoovered up from the social network.
Small steps, but we guess it counts as progress. µ
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