Re­port: Apps send sen­si­tive data from users to Face­book

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY MAE AN­DER­SON

Sev­eral phone apps are send­ing sen­si­tive user data, in­clud­ing health in­for­ma­tion, to Face­book with­out users’ con­sent, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by The Wall Street Jour­nal.

An an­a­lyt­ics tool called “App Events” al­lows app de­vel­op­ers to record user ac­tiv­ity and re­port it back to Face­book, even if the user isn’t on Face­book, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

One ex­am­ple de­tailed by the Jour­nal shows how a woman would track her pe­riod and ovu­la­tion us­ing an app from Flo Health. Af­ter she en­ters when she last had her pe­riod, Face- book soft­ware in the app would send along data such as whether the user may be ovu­lat­ing. The Jour­nal’s test­ing found that the data was sent with an ad­ver­tis­ing ID that can be matched to a de­vice or pro­file.

Although Face­book’s terms in­struct app de­vel­op­ers not to send such sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, Face­book ap­peared to be ac­cept­ing such data with­out telling the de­vel­op­ers to stop. De­vel­op­ers are able to use such data to tar­get their own users while on Face­book.

Face­book said in a state­ment that it re­quires apps to tell users what in­for­ma­tion is shared with Face­book and it “pro­hibits app de­vel­op­ers from send- ing us sen­si­tive data.” The com­pany said it works to re­move in­for­ma­tion that de­vel­op­ers should not have sent to Face­book.

The de­vel­op­ment comes as Face­book is deal­ing with in­creased scru­tiny over how it han­dles user data. Last week, Bri­tish law­mak­ers is­sued a scathing re­port call­ing for tougher pri­vacy rules for tech firms.

Crit­i­cisms over pri­vacy in­ten­si­fied nearly a year ago fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions that the now-de­funct Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica data-min­ing firm ac­cessed data on some 87 mil­lion Face­book users with­out their con­sent.


A Wall Street Jour­nal re­port says health in­for­ma­tion is among the sen­si­tive data be­ing sent.

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