A report by the Wall Street Journal reveals that Facebook is collecting personal data from smartphone apps, even from mobile users who are not signed up on the platform. The journal ran a test using over 70 Apple apps. According to the publication, the apps send data without any disclosures.
Some of the apps listed include Flo Period, Realtor.com and Instant Heart Rate. The data transmitted included personal health information, real estate searches, and menstrual cycles. According to Facebook the data sharing violated business terms that require app developers to keep financial, health and other similarly sensitive information.
Facebook claimed that it demanded of the apps to stop sending raw data. The company is likely to put in place additional measures to ensure compliance. In a follow-up article, the journal recorded that some apps that had been red-flagged stopped sharing information with the platform.
The latest news about Facebook’s practices for collecting data may cause legal problems for the social giant as regulators launch investigations and user of the app file lawsuits against third-party app developers and the platform. After the report by the Wall Street Journal, there was an order passed by Andrew Cuomo to investigate the alleged invasion of privacy. He asked regulators to track down the apps that shared data without the knowledge of the user.
Senator Ed Markey described the practice by Facebook as ‘a new form of privacy malpractice.’ He urged the FTC to look at complaints launched against Facebook. One of the complaints was that the company manipulated children to spend their parent’s money on games on the platform.
Mobile marketers have to be careful regarding the privacy of their consumers, especially when apps will collect sensitive data. They can easily find themselves on the receiving end of a backlash. Social media applications are powerful when it comes to pushing products and services. They can create brand awareness, but they can also damage a brand’s image. Google and Apple may be forced to be stricter on developers including Facebook who gather data without consent.
After the Journal’s report, Facebook got in touch with developers and advertisers to let them know of their guidelines against sharing sensitive user information. The network is now said to be working on creating systems that note and block data uploads from apps. However, the fact that someone leaked this information is yet another privacy problem the company may have to deal with as it could affect the confidence advertisers have in the network.
The problem of sharing sensitive information may be widespread as the SDKs from Facebook are found in 25.4% of Android apps and 17.6% of Apple apps. Facebook is still dealing with issues around data privacy. Just last week, the platform got rid of Onavo VPN app because it gave the platform access to smartphone activities. According to TechCrunch, the app will stop collecting information from users who have already installed it.