TripAdvisor, Skyscanner among top apps sending sensitive data to Facebook

TripAdvisor,Skyscanner,MyFitnessPal

"We also found that some apps routinely send Facebook data that is incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive". 61 percent of the apps that were tested were sending data to Facebook as soon as the user opened the app.

A few of the companies highlighted in the study provided a statement to Financial Times, and at least one said it wasn't aware that this type of data was being shared with Facebook.

A "profile" could be based on the European legal sense of it-an online identity that a user creates for herself-or Facebook's own definition, which she says could be as simple as, "having a profile of you waiting for you when you sign up". After spot testing 34 popular (10-500 million users) Android apps, the group found that 23 of them were sending data over to Facebook without any kind of user consent - and even for those without a Facebook account.

In some cases, the apps were sharing private data with the social media giant even if users didn't have a Facebook account.

The data shared sounds pretty innocuous by itself: typically, the apps communicate to Facebook that a user has started using the app by sending a signal that Facebook's SDK has been initialized. More data including each time the user opens the specific app is also sent to the company.

According to Privacy International, some of the apps that share data with Facebook include Kayak, Skyscanner, Trip Advisor, Shazam, Spotify and Indeed. Under the new regulation, mobile apps can not collect or share a user's data without their permission.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy protection is the company's top priority in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. "If combined, data from different apps can paint a fine-grained and intimate picture of people's activities, interests, behaviors, and routines, some of which can reveal special category data, including information about people's health or religion", the report states.

German security experts MobilSicher last month tested apps including Pregnancy+ and MigraineBuddy, Bible+ and Muslim Pro were collecting information and transmitting it to Facebook.

For example, a person who has installed the following applications that we have tried, Qibla Connect (a Muslim prayer application), Period Tracker Clue (a period tracker), Indeed (a job search application), My Talking Tom (an application for children), could be outlined as probable woman, probably Muslim, probable job applicant, probable mother.

In a response to Privacy International, Facebook acknowledged that developers didn't have the option to disable transmission of the "SDK initialized" data before June.

Furthermore, Privacy International's research showed that the data sharing described above happens even for users who don't have a Facebook account, and have opted out of receiving Facebook cookies (as explained in Facebook's Cookies Policy).

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