Google’s Android Apps Sends User Data To Facebook Without Content

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A new report that was released by Privacy International has revealed that nearly two dozen popular Android apps automatically send user information to Facebook as soon as they are opened. It is considered as a possible breach of data protection laws.

An analysis of 34 Android apps revealed that 61 percent of the apps automatically transfer data to Facebook, even when the user is not logged in or does not have a Facebook account.

The information transferred includes the unique user’s Google advertising ID and details about the apps that the user has opened. Privacy International said that when combined, the information could paint a “fine-grained and intimate picture” of the user’s activities, interests and behaviour.

The report mentioned Kayak, a travel booking app, which it said sent detailed information regarding flight searches to Facebook, including the details of the departure and arrival and the number of tickets. It also criticised Trip Advisor for its transferral of user data.

Privacy International said that the findings introduce various legal questions. Under the data protection laws of the European Union, or as known as GDPR, firms are required to gain specific consent from the users prior to using their personal information.

The report urged Facebook to provide a clearer explanation of how it uses the data and to make it easier for people to exercise their data rights, even if they do not have an account on Facebook.

A spokesperson for Facebook stated: “Facebook’s SDK [software development kit] tool means that developers can choose to collect app events automatically, to not collect them at all, or to delay collecting them until consent is obtained, depending on their particular circumstances.”

He added: “We also require developers to ensure they have an appropriate legal basis to collect and process users’ information. Finally, we provide guidance to developers on how to comply with our requirements in this regard.”

The findings come after the social media giant was affected by controversies that are surrounding its use of user data.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) disclosed that the social network has been imposed with a fine amounting to £500,000 by the and faces a lawsuit in the US after Cambridge Analytica breached privacy laws by collecting the information of up to 87 million Facebook users.

The report also urged Google to block third-party tracking on its Android devices.

As a response to the report, Google stated: “The behaviour described is not Android behaviour, is not specific to Android, and it does not occur as a result of any aspect of Android’s design.”

It added: “The same behaviour will be observed in other operating systems because it is the by-product of Facebook’s arrangements with the third-party apps that implement Facebook’s SDK.”

A Trip Advisor spokesperson stated: “The technical issues raised by Privacy International are extremely complex, and we respectfully consider the statements they have made to be somewhat oversimplified.”

It added: “We are currently in the process of investigating the remarks published regarding our use of the Facebook SDK. We will make a determination about any actions or clarifications once the investigation is complete.”