According to a latest report from The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is receiving highly personal information from apps that track your health and help you find a new home. Facebook can receive this data from certain apps even if the user does not have a Facebook account.
Recently, a report suggested that Facebook has paid teenage users to install an app that would allow the company to collect all phone and web activity. This made Apple revoke some developer privileges from Facebook, saying Facebook has violated its terms by distributing the app through a program meant only for employees to test apps prior to release. However, the new report says that Facebook is able to receive data from over 70 popular apps and found at least 11 apps sending potentially sensitive information to Facebook.
The apps included the period-tracking app Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, which reportedly shared with Facebook when users were having their periods or when they indicated they were trying to get pregnant. Real estate app Realtor reportedly sent Facebook the listing information viewed by users, and the top heart-rate app on Apple’s iOS, Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, sent users’ heart rates to the company, the Journal’s testing found.
The apps reportedly send the data using Facebook’s software development kit, or SDK, which help developers integrate certain features into their apps. Facebook’s SDK includes an analytics service that helps app developers understand its users’ trends. The report said that developers who sent sensitive information to Facebook used “custom app events” to send data.
Following the report, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the New York Department of State and Department of Financial Services to investigate Facebook for what he called an “invasion of consumer privacy” in a statement.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said:
New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information is safe, and we must hold internet companies — no matter how big — responsible for upholding the law and protecting the information of smartphone users,” Cuomo said in the statement.
A Facebook spokesperson in a statement said:
Sharing information across apps on your iPhone or Android device is how mobile advertising works and is industry standard practice. The issue is how apps use information for online advertising. We require app developers to be clear with their users about the information they are sharing with us, and we prohibit app developers from sending us sensitive data. We also take steps to detect and remove data that should not be shared with us.