Popular Android Apps Continue Sending User Data to Facebook Despite Controversy

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated May 18, 2024

Despite the continuous and repeated public outcry against shady practices of user data collection and sharing, quite a few Android apps that are used by millions of people continue to do precisely that. According to a recent report by Privacy International, “Editor Choice” apps such as Duolingo, Indeed, Yelp, and Muslim Pro, are sending your personal data to Facebook, even if you don’t have an account on the social media's platform, and even if the Facebook app is not installed on your device. As expected, it’s all done for targeted ad serving, with all links in the chain (except the users) having something to win out of it.

The same organization had conducted a similar investigation back in December, unveiling that about 43% of all apps that are freely available on the Google Play Store were sending user data to Facebook. As it seems, not much has changed by these revelations, as multiple Android apps are still maintaining the Facebook SDK App Events component integrated into their functional code. In some cases, app developers have not even realized the specific operation of the Facebook SDK, as there needs to be a selective implementation of its components in order to ensure the privacy and protection of the user data. This bulk SDK application practice is exactly where Facebook bases its developer accusation claims, denying any responsibility.

As worrying as this may be, Facebook is just one of the multiple organizations that track users and their activity, and it’s not even the largest. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is the receptor of a much higher volume of collected user data, as nearly 90% of the apps that are available for free on the Google Play Store are sending their user data to them. In most cases, users don’t realize that this data collection process is going on, as there are no clear indications or clarifications provided in the user data management and sharing policy details found in the app’s documentation.

If you want to stay protected against such practices, there are some things that you can do from your side. PI suggests that users should reset their advertising ID regularly, so the tracking process is also reset. Moreover, you should opt out of personalized advertising through your device’s settings, and in addition to this, you should regularly review the app permissions that you have granted (or not). Finally, if you are frantic about this, you can always set up a phone-based firewall that is good enough to protect your privacy.

How are you handling ad serving tracking permissions on the Android platform? Share the details in the comments section below, and feel free to do the same on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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