« The picture painted is one of a digital advertising ecosystem out of control. It goes on to point out that 11 popular health apps, serving tens of millions of users, are (or were) spewing data towards Facebook’s servers with little indication to the user of what is going on.
Worse still, this was happening, the WSJ reported, whether or not the person using the app was even a member of Facebook at all. Imagine that – you’ve decided not to join Facebook, for whatever reason, but Mark Zuckerberg’s company is still receiving information about what you had for dinner last night, and how you’re planning to have sex tomorrow because you’re trying for a baby. »
« The apps in question used a Facebook-provided tool called App Events to collect and send the information back. Data from App Events is used to power Facebook’s advertising algorithms, though the company insists it wouldn’t use sensitive data for this (we can’t verify that, of course). Developers would use App Events to track how users use their app – something which can be used to power target advertising. »
« The company has a standard list of App Events that it provides to every developer that wants to use them. On top of that, developers can also create Custom Events, tailored to their app’s specific needs. In Facebook’s policies for how to use Custom Events, it states that developers shouldn’t use Custom Events to gather and send back sensitive data.
But, that’s what those 11 apps supposedly did, according to the Wall Street Journal’s testing. One of them, Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, was collecting and sending data about women’s ovulation cycles, periods and whether or not they were trying to become pregnant. Of course, women were willingly putting this information into the app – as that was its purpose – but most were surely unaware of how it was being passed on. »
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran a gobsmacking story
« Millions of smartphone users confess their most intimate secrets to apps, including when they want to work on their belly fat or the price of the house they checked out last weekend. Other apps know users’ body weight, blood pressure, menstrual cycles or pregnancy status.”
« You Give Apps Sensitive Personal Information. Then They Tell Facebook.
Wall Street Journal testing reveals how the social-media giant collects a wide range of private data from developers; ‘This is a big mess’ »