6 Android Apps Which Automatically Transfer Your Data To Facebook

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6 Android Apps Which Automatically Transfer Your Data To Facebook

Back in December 2018, UK advocacy group Privacy International (PI) published a study which outlined Android apps which share sensitive personal data with Facebook, even if a user did not have a Facebook account.

You may know that Facebook tracks its users, but did you know it also tracks non-users and logged-out users outside its platform through Facebook Business Tools? App developers share data with Facebook through the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of software development tools that help developers build apps for a specific operating system.

 

THE STUDY

In PI’s study, they analysed the data of 34 Android apps, each selected because of their install base from 10 to 500 million which were transmitting data to Facebook through the Facebook SDK.

Of the free apps tested from the Google Play Store, 61% tested automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app. This happens whether people have a Facebook account or not, or whether they are logged into Facebook or not.

What is surprising is that many of these are popular apps which you probably are currently using such as Spotify, Trip Advisor, Shazam, and Skyscanner,

 

WHAT DATA IS TRANSMITTED?

  • The first data to be automatically transmitted is events data that communicates to Facebook that the Facebook SDK has been initialized. This data reveals to Facebook every single time when the user has opened the specific said app.
  • The Google advertising ID (AAID), which is a unique identifier allowing advertisers to link data about user behaviours from different apps and web browsing. Picking from data such as their interest and activities across apps allows them to build a comprehensive profile on a user. (Eg. “Female parent, frequent-traveller”)
  • Detailed and sensitive information. PI found for example that travel search app KAYAK was sending an incredulous amount of detailed information such as people’s flight searches to Facebook, including: departure city, departure airport, departure date, arrival city, arrival airport, arrival date, number of tickets, and class of tickets.

 

UPDATE (MARCH 2019)

As of March 2019, PI had retested all the apps from the previous report. Thankfully, their report seems to have made an impact as two thirds of the apps it retested, including Spotify, Skyscanner, and KAYAK were found to have their apps so that they no longer contact Facebook when you open the app.

However, there were still many apps which exhibited the same behaviour from the original report, whereby they were transferring data to Facebook before users are able to agree or consent.

Among those are:

 

1) YELP

2) DUOLINGO

3) INDEED JOB SEARCH

4) KING JAMES BIBLE APP

5) QIBLA CONNECT

6) MUSLIM PRO

 

If you are now reconsidering your online security, you can learn how to improve your digital privacy with the use of a Virtual Private Network.

 

PI also recommends these tips to reduce app tracking on your Androids, (although they do not prevent the type of tracking described in their report):

  • Reset your advertising ID regularly. (Settings > Google > Ads > Reset Advertising ID)
  • Opt out of ad personalisation in the Android settings. (Settings > Google > Ads > Opt Out of Personalized Advertising)
  • Regularly review the permissions that you have given to different apps and limit them to what is strictly necessary for how you want to use that app. (Settings > Apps or Application Manager > tap the app you want to review > Permissions.
  • The addition of a phone-based firewall, like AFWall+ or NetGuard, can also limit connections to addresses such as graph.facebook.com.

 

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