Facebook doesn't exactly have the best reputation when it comes to protecting user privacy, so it should come as little surprise that several popular apps for Android are sharing data with the social network, and doing so without clear permission, according to a recently published study by Privacy International.
The study examined 34 popular Android apps in all, and found that at least 61 percent of them "automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app." This happens regardless of whether the person even has a Facebook account, and if they do, the offending apps still transmit data when the user is not logged into Facebook.
"We also found that some apps routinely send Facebook data that is incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive. Again, this concerns data of people who are either logged out of Facebook or who do not have a Facebook account," Privacy International stated.
Each of the apps studied have an install base ranging between 10 million and 500 million. These are widely used apps, in other words. The list of offending ones include: MyFitnessPal, Duolingo, Family Locator, Indeed, Instant Heart Rate, Kayak, King James Bible, Muslim Pro, My Talking Tom, Period Tracker, Qibla Connect, Shazam, Skyscanner, Spotify, Super-Bright LED Flashlight, The Weather Channel, TripAdvisor, VK, Yelp, and Salatuk. Fllow this link for a detailed analysis of each one.
Privacy International also highlighted that in some cases, the data these apps share with Facebook is "incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive."
"A prime example is the travel search and price comparison app Kayak, which sends detailed information about people’s flight searches to Facebook, including: departure city, departure airport, departure date, arrival city, arrival airport, arrival date, number of tickets (including number of children), class of tickets (economy, business or first class)," Privacy International says.
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.
"We were not aware that data was being sent to Facebook in this way without prior consent from our users, which went against our own internal rules on the integration of third-party technologies. We are still investigating how this happened," a spokesperson for Skyscanner told FT.
That might be accurate, but it doesn't excuse the behavior. It also remains to be seen if Facebook will issue a response to the study.