TripAdvisor, Skyscanner among top apps sending sensitive data to Facebook

Sheri Evans
January 3, 2019

The data shared with Facebook is shared with a Google advertising ID (AAID).

While data on what apps are opened by a user may seem innocuous, Facebook can then combine it with data collected through other means to create a very detailed personal advertising profile.

Privacy International found that 23 of the apps it tested sent data to Facebook - data which tells the social network that a user has opened or closed a specific app, along with information about the device, and language and time zone settings.

Some Android apps are sending data to Facebook, regardless of whether users have an account on the social network or not, new research warns. One example is fare aggregator Kayak, which sends Facebook information on the flights you searched for on the app, the departure date of any flights you looked up, the airports involved, the number of people traveling, class of tickets and more. This information is sent whether or not the user has a Facebook account, but if they do, the info can be tied to a profile, essentially de-anonymizing them. Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features. These are widely used apps, in other words.

Under GDPR, companies are required to report data breaches within 72 hours, as well as to allow customers to export their data and delete it.

See: What is GDPR?

Researchers studied dozens of apps like MyFitnessPal, Kayak, Skyscanner, and Tripadvisor-all of which have between 10 and 500 million downloads-and found that more than half of them, 61 percent, transfer data automatically to Facebook the moment a user opens the app.

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Here's the worst part: Staying off Facebook doesn't protect you from this.

Among the first set of data that apps reportedly send to Facebook is that Facebook SDK has been initialised and that app has been installed. Privacy International has tested both opt-outs and found that they had no discernible impact on the data sharing that we have described in this report.

So a report from Privacy International is disappointing, even if it isn't entirely surprising. The update also does not even disable the SDK initialization message in question and the apps are still sending data.

Last month, Facebook was once again in hot water over privacy violations, when it revealed a bug in one of its APIs exposed the private photos of almost 6.8 million users.

In response to this report, Facebook was conciliatory and noted that it is working on a "suite of changes", including a new tool called "Clear History" that it says might help address the blowback from this current issue.

As the British government reveals some of Facebook's innards, who comes out worst?

Facebook has been in hot water since early past year when it was revealed that the company exposed data of around 87 million users to a Cambridge Analytica researcher, who was working for the Trump campaign.

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