According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, at least 11 popular iOS apps totalling tens of millions of downloads have been sharing sensitive user data with Facebook, without any prominent or specific disclosure.
Privacy experts, who have reviewed the Journal’s latest findings, have been astonished to find out that the social media giant is collecting intensely personal information from many popular smartphone apps just seconds after users enter it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook.
In the Journal’s testing, Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, the most popular heartrate app on Apple’s iOS, made by California based Azumio Inc., sent a user’s heart rate to Facebook immediately after it was recorded.
Flo Health Inc.’s Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, which claims 25 million active users, told Facebook when a user was having her period or informed the app of an intention to get pregnant, the tests showed.
At the heart of the issue is an analytics tool Facebook offers developers, which allows them to see statistics about their users’ activities—and to target those users with Facebook ads.
Interestingly, popular real-estate app Realtor.com, which is owned by a subsidiary of the Wall Street Journal parent News Corp, has also been found to send Facebook the location and price of listings that a user viewed, noting which ones were marked as favourites.
The report highlights that none of these apps provided users any apparent way to stop that information from being sent to the social media giant.
Meanwhile, Facebook has said that some of the data sharing uncovered by the report violates its business terms, which instruct app developers not to send it “health, financial information or other categories of sensitive
The company has also said that it is warning the apps identified by the Journal to stop sending sensitive user information and that it will take further action if the apps do not comply.