In a new study, U.K.-based privacy watchdog Privacy International found that 61 percent of apps “automatically transfer data to facebook to moment a user opens the app.”
Privacy International said popular apps that transfer data automatically include travel apps Kayak, TripAdvisor, Skyscanner, and fitness tracker MyFitnessPal.
The study, titled How Apps on Android Share Data with Facebook (Even if you don’t have Facebook account), said it tested 34 apps, out of which 20 apps sent information including analytics data as well as a person’s unique Android ID.
On apps like Kayak, information that gets sent include destination, flight search data, travel dates, and whether kids will be part of the travel, it said.
The report added that it was not able to find out what the information was used for and that it raises “questions about transparency and use of app data.”
It said that the apps that transfer data also include the Google advertising ID, which is used to allow advertisers to link data about a users’ behaviour.
“If combined, data from different apps can paint a fine-grained and intimate picture of people’s activities, interests, behaviours and routines, some of which can reveal special category data,k including information about people’s health or religion,” the report said.
Facebook responded to the report on December 28th, 2018, saying that the social media giant installed a voluntary feature that should allow developers to delay collecting automatically logged events until after they acquire user consent. This feature was launched a few months after the EU General Data Protection Regulation entered into force.
Though this feature only works on Facebook software developer kit (SDK) version 4.34 and later.
The report suggests recommendations for Facebook including better explaining how it uses data that it automatically gets through Facebook SDK and how long this data is stored for.
It also noted that Facebook should also offer better services to make developers easily “protect the privacy of their users by design and by default.” It added that Facebook should also make it easier for people to exercise their data rights on all “personal data that Facebook stores, whether they have a Facebook account or not.”
Further, the report highlights recommendations for users on how to protect their data.
Privacy International said it tested the apps between August and December 2018, “with the last re-test happening between 3 and 11 of December 2018.”
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