Category: Data Sharing

Facebook Secret Emails

The UK parliament has been trying to hold Facebook to account following its lack of control on data sharing and the massive data breach in 2017 which affected 87 million people.

Cambridge Analytica

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal in early 2018 revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes. This was a shock to many people and showed Facebook had no regard for its user’s privacy or confidential information.

Six4Three

Six4Three are the makers of the app Pinkini and Pinkini was one of many businesses that shared data with Facebook until 2015, when Facebook changed its policies on how information was shared and this meant developers of the app were restricted in accessing data and culminated in the loss of business for Six4Three.

Six4Three then began a year long battle with Facebook.

The company claims Facebook misled developers by encouraging them to build applications based around promised access to data controls and privacy settings and then restricted access to that data.

Emails written by Facebook’s chief and his deputies show the firm struck secret deals to give some developers special access to user data while refusing others.

It is also clear that Facebook deliberately made it difficult for users to be aware of privacy changes to its Android app.

Damian Collins (UK Government chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee)

There was believed to be a secret cache of emails between Mark Zuckerberg and other executives that shows that Facebook knew about flaws in its privacy policy and allowed them to be actively exploited before the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

MPs discovered the documents were in the possession of an American software executive visiting London on a business trip and sent an official from the House of Commons to his hotel to retrieve them.

Parliament

It appears from documents that Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users’ calls and texts would be controversial. To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features.

Facebook is also known to have used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public. It then used this knowledge to decide which apps to acquire or otherwise treat as a threat

Conclusion

Another example of how Facebook ignore their user’s right to privacy in the belief that the information provided by the users belongs to Facebook and that Facebook can do anything it wants with that data and can treat other businesses as badly as it wishes to.

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Data Sharing by APPS Out of Control

Oxford researchers looked at nearly one million APPS on Google Play Store and found that almost 90% of free APPS collect data and send it to Google, plus almost 40% collect data and send it to companies owned by Facebook.

Some of this is legitimate and necessary e.g. collecting and sending data on APP failures which helps the software maker to improve their product and Google Analytics data enables website owners to track their online usage via Google and so on.

But it does seem that a lot is to do with advertising.

The concept of free APPS is of course a tricky one as the APP makers have to make money somehow and passing data to potential advertisers is one way that many users won’t mind. But some of us do mind that our data is shared without our permission and this should not be allowed.

The sort of data collected can include age, gender, location, list of other installed APPS etc.

The research also found that 33% of the APPS send data to Twitter, 26% to Verizon (Yahoo, Tumblr etc.), 22% to Microsoft, 18% to Amazon etc.

These third-party trackers were mostly prevalent in news apps and apps aimed at children and young adults. By tracking user data – which includes information like age, location, gender, buying habits, and other miscellaneous information- companies can form a profile of users. This can then be used to send target specific ads, influence a user’s buying habits or even send political campaign messages.

Used in this manner, profiling of children without attempting to obtain parental consent, is illegal.

Do review the privacy settings on your APPS and delete any APPS you believe are sharing your data without your consent.

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Facebook Shares Data with 150 Companies

Facebook shares dropped significantly when the New York Times reported that the social media company allowed more than 150 companies (including Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify) to access more users’ personal data than it had previously disclosed.

According to the report, the social network had allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, and allowed other companies to read Facebook users’ private messages.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s director of privacy and public policy, claimed that none of the partnerships violated users’ privacy, or a 2011 agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to require explicit permission from members before sharing their data.

Facebook has admitted it allowed other big tech companies to read users’ private messages, but denies it did so without consent.

Facebook said it shut down its “instant personalisation” process in 2014, which allowed users to link their Facebook accounts with other services to see public information their friends shared. But it admitted the software components for the service were left in place after it shut down, potentially allowing developers to continue accessing users’ personal information. Facebook said it has “no evidence data was used or misused after the program was shut down.”

This is pretty bad for Facebook as it’s yet another case where the company has shown little regard for its users and prioritised money above privacy.

But, it’s not as bad as it may seem as the other companies involved appear to have had APPS and services that used specific data from Facebook and users had given permission although they may not have known exactly what they were giving permission for.

One day, Facebook may start treating its users properly – we can only hope for that miracle.

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