Some Popular Apps Send Personal Info, Like Intent to Get Pregnant, to Facebook in Secret

It is becoming a trend to discover what apps, including the most popular ones, are doing with people’s information.

Permissions for apps have always been a thing, with some being more restrictive than others. However, it appears that some companies have worked diligently to figure out what they can get away with. Access to information is vital to companies, and a main sticking point for privacy advocates, and finding a balance can be tough.

It certainly doesn’t help when that access to information is being taken advantage of in secret. Today, The Wall Street Journal has an in-depth look at several different popular apps across iOS and Android that send information, remarkably private information in some cases, to Facebook. Unsurprisingly, the social network uses the information that is shared with it for targeted advertising.

“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.”

The report reveals that the issue extends to individuals that aren’t even Facebook users as well:

“The social-media giant collects intensely personal information from many popular smartphone apps just seconds after users enter it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook, according to testing done by The Wall Street Journal. The apps often send the data without any prominent or specific disclosure, the testing showed.”

The issue here is that the “in secret” part is actually vindicated by Apple and Google, the companies behind the two most popular digital storefronts for apps. Neither company requires the apps to disclose their partners that can access data. On top of that, there is not a clear, definitive way to get these apps to stop sending personal data to these partners.

In some cases, that information can include the intent to get pregnant.

“In the Journal’s testing, Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, the most popular heart-rate 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.

Real-estate app Realtor.com, owned by Move Inc., a subsidiary of Wall Street Journal parent News Corp, sent the social network the location and price of listings that a user viewed, noting which ones were marked as favorites, the tests showed.”

Apple, for its part, does say that it requires apps to seek “prior consent” before accessing private data. However, the issue is that apps aren’t required to say where that information is going.

“Apple said its guidelines require apps to seek “prior user consent” for collecting user data and take steps to prevent unauthorized access by third parties. “When we hear of any developer violating these strict privacy terms and guidelines, we quickly investigate and, if necessary, take immediate action,” the company said.”

The full write-up is interesting to say the least. Check it out through the source link below. What do you think Apple should do in this particular case?

[via WSJ]

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