You have to wonder what is really going on at Facebook when it comes to personal data. An organization called Privacy International has just published a report (via Android Police) that reveals how certain Android apps share your personal data with Facebook, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Between August and December 2018, the organization tested 34 Android apps and found that 20 of them share data with Facebook from the moment you open that app.

The data is sent to Facebook with a unique Google advertising ID that allows the recipient of the data to build a profile of a person based on other apps installed. Looking at this information, even if your name is unknown, your religion, health, gender, activities, interests and routines can be determined. The report found that some apps are sending to Facebook “incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive” information. One example is fare aggregator Kayak, which sends Facebook information on the flights you searched for on the app, the departure date of any flights you looked up, the airports involved, the number of people traveling, class of tickets and more. Even if you decide to “Opt out of Ads Personalization”
using the settings on Android, the report says that it might not save you from having your data sent to Facebook from third party apps like Kayak, Shazam and others.

Just before the end of the year, Google wrote an email to Privacy International stating that if a user disables “ads personalization” in the device Advertising ID settings, the advertising identifier cannot be used to create user profiles for advertising purposes. But as Privacy International points out, this doesn’t stop the apps from tracking users, or using collected data for non advertising purposes.

While Facebook says that the onus is on app developers to get users to agree that they have the legal right to collect and share personal data, in June the company launched a feature that allows developers to delay collecting data until the user consents. Perhaps not coincidentally, this feature was added 35 days after Europe’s draconian General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect. This regulation prevents companies from using subscriber’s personal data without consent. Companies that fail to adhere to the rules could be fined 4% of global revenue or the equivalent $23 million dollar, whichever is higher.

According to Privacy International, some of the apps that share data with Facebook include Kayak, Skyscanner, Trip Advisor, Shazam, Spotify and Indeed.