An investigation by The Wall Street Journal on Friday found that Facebook is collecting data from smartphone users’ other apps without their consent, adding yet another layer to intensifying concerns about the company’s privacy violations.
According to testing the Journal conducted, many app developers are using an analytics tool called App Events that lets them record their users’ activity and then share it with Facebook, which may use that information to target its own users with specific advertising. The apps may do this whether an individual uses a Facebook account to log into the app or not. They may even send Facebook information about an app user who isn’t a member of the social media network, the investigation found.
Much of that user data can include extremely sensitive information, such as insights into users’ fertility, heart rate and other health concerns, or intel on what potential purchasers of real estate are looking up.
Using software that monitors internet communications, the Journal found that out of 70 popular apps that handle sensitive information and are available in Apple’s app store, 11 sent Facebook information about their users, such as information users entered or data the app collected about the users’ behavior.
You can read more about which apps are sharing information with Facebook in the full Journal story.
In a statement for the story, Facebook acknowledged that some data were apparently being shared in violation of the company’s business terms, which direct app developers not to share “health, financial information or other categories of sensitive information” with the company.
Though Facebook added that it’s now telling those developers to start complying with its rules, critics of the social media giant say they’ve had enough.
“I’m sick of hearing Facebook make excuses for its repeated privacy invasions,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), an advocate of consumer privacy protections, said in a statement Friday. “The allegations in the Wall Street Journal are the latest in a long list of deeply troubling reports about the company’s practices. The [Federal Trade Commission] should add the latest report to the long list of things they’re investigating.”
In light of the journal’s findings, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered two state agencies ― the Department of State and Department of Financial Services ― to launch an investigation into Facebook’s practices.