After an entire year of embarrassment, many had thought that Facebook would refrain from indulging in unethical techniques for obtaining data. But every new discovery reveals a more disturbing picture about Facebook’s thirst for data. A new report from The Wall Street Journal has found Facebook gaining highly personal information from certain apps. To make the situation more alarming, Facebook can access this data even if you’re not using Facebook.
The report looked at some 70 different popular apps and found at least 11 to be sharing sensitive data with Facebook. Flo Period and Ovulation Tracker was found sharing details about when its users were having periods or when they were about to get pregnant. Instant Heart Rate :HR Monitor shared heart rates of users at various times with Facebook while the real estate app, Realtor shared the listing its users viewed.
The developers who used Facebook’s SDK for analytics were found sending data to the social media giant. The report notes that none of the mentioned apps made it easily accessible for users to know that such sort of data sharing was taking place. In fact, some apps were using custom events which are popular in the app to send the data.
Talking to CNBC, the spokesperson for Flo Period and Ovulation Tracker said that they would revisit all the analytics tools they are using and said that the tools are intended for internal testing only, “will cover an exhaustive spectrum of all external analytical tools, not limited to Facebook Analytics,” said the spokesperson.
Facebook in their usual fashion, denied any involvement in the fiasco. In fact they deemed the practice is quite lawful and said that they encouraged the developers to let their users know about such data sharing. A spokesperson for Facebook said,“Sharing information across apps on your iPhone or Android device is how mobile advertising works and is industry standard practice. The issue is how apps use information for online advertising. We require app developers to be clear with their users about the information they are sharing with us, and we prohibit app developers from sending us sensitive data. We also take steps to detect and remove data that should not be shared with us.”
“Invasion of consumer privacy”
Following the report, an investigation has been launched by New York Department of State and Department of Financial Services into Facebook’s practices resulting “invasion of consumer privacy.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said ,“New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information is safe, and we must hold internet companies — no matter how big — responsible for upholding the law and protecting the information of smartphone users,”
Where does it stop?
Facebook has been facing criticism for such practices but it looks like they are not changing anything. Last month, a report from TechCrunch found how Facebook was incentivising teenagers to share their personal data. The VPN app used has since been removed but Facebook walked away freely. If Facebook continues to get such privilege, who knows what they will do next in their quest for data and analytics.