Thursday January 17, 2019
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Facebook Tracks Even Those Android Users Who Do Not Use The App

"We do this in a transparent manner by explaining the practice through our Data Policy and Cookies Policy, and by using Google's advertising identifier, which can be controlled centrally by people using their device settings," it added

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Facebook
Invite friends to enjoy events together on Facebook Pixabay

Making things worse for Facebook, which is already mired in controversies surrounding data leaks of tens of millions of its users, a new research has found that the social media giant tracks even those Android users who do not use the app.

Facebook routinely tracks users, non users and logged out users outside its platform, said the study by UK-based charity Privacy International.

App developers share data with Facebook through the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of software development tools that help developers build apps for a specific operating system, showed the findings.

Scrutiny of Facebook increased manifold since it revealed earlier this year how the now defunct London-based political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, improperly got access to data of up to 87 millions users.

For the latest study, Privacy International examined 34 apps on Android, each with an install base from 10 to 500 million.

The apps included language-learning tool Duolingo, travel and restaurant website TripAdvisor, job database Indeed and flight search engine Skyscanner among others.

The researchers analysed what data these apps transmitted to Facebook through the Facebook SDK. All apps were tested between August and December 2018.

The research, presented at Chaos Computer Congress in Leipzig, Germany, showed that that at least 61 per cent of apps that Privacy International tested automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app.

Facebook, data
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“This happens whether people have a Facebook account or not, or whether they are logged into Facebook or not,” the report said.

This data reveals the fact that a user is using a specific app, every single time that user opens an app.

“In our analysis, apps that automatically transmit data to Facebook share this data together with a unique identifier, the Google advertising ID (AAID),” the researchers said.

The primary purpose of advertising IDs, such as the Google advertising ID (or Apple’s equivalent, the IDFA) is to allow advertisers to link data about user behaviour from different apps and web browsing into a comprehensive profile, according to the report.

Responding to the findings, Google said that users can disable ads personalisation via a control in the Google Account controls.

This will stop Google advertising services from creating user profiles for advertising purposes or for targeting users with personalised advertising.

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Facebook told Privacy International that sharing data is “common practice for many companies” and is useful for both users and the companies involved, The Independent reported on Wednesday.

“This information is important for helping developers understand how to improve their apps and for helping people receive relevant advertising in a privacy-protective way,” Facebook said.

“We do this in a transparent manner by explaining the practice through our Data Policy and Cookies Policy, and by using Google’s advertising identifier, which can be controlled centrally by people using their device settings,” it added. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook To Invest $300Mn In Local News Partnerships, Programs

The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model."

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Facebook, dating
Facebook owned photo-messaging app Instagram already supports the "Unsend" capability VOA

Facebook says it is investing $300 million over the next three years in local news programs, partnerships and other initiatives.

The money will go toward reporting grants for local newsrooms, expanding Facebook’s program to help local newsrooms with subscription business models and investing in nonprofits aimed at supporting local news.

The move comes at a difficult time for the news industry, which is facing falling profits and print readership. Facebook, like Google, has also been partly blamed for the ongoing decline in newspapers’ share of advertising dollars as people and advertisers have moved online.

Facebook, Fake News
A user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. Facebook has made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people’s feeds so others are less likely to see them. VOA

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnerships, acknowledges the company “can’t uninvent the internet,” but says it wants to work with publishers to help them succeed on and off the social network.

“The industry is going through a massive transition that has been underway for a long time,” she said. “None of us have quite figured out ultimately what the future of journalism is going to look like but we want to be part of helping find a solution.”

Facebook has increased its focus on local news in the past year after starting off 2018 with the announcement that it was generally de-emphasizing news stories and videos in people’s feeds on the social network in favor of posts from their friends.

At the same time, though, the company has been cautiously testing out ways to boost local news stories users are interested in and initiatives to support the broader industry. It launched a feature called “Today In” that shows people local news and information , including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements, expanding it to hundreds of cities around the U.S. and a few in Australia.

Facebook, social media
Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this illustration. VOA

The push to support local news comes as Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, California, tries to shake off its reputation as a hotbed for misinformation and elections-meddling. The company says users have been asking to see more local content that is relevant to them, including news stories as well as community information such as road closings during a snowstorm.

The $300 million investment includes a $5 million grant to the nonprofit Pulitzer Center to launch “Bringing Stories Home,” a fund that will provide local U.S. newsrooms with reporting grants to support coverage of local issues. There’s also a $2 million investment in Report for America as part of a partnership aiming to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across the country over the next five years.

The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model. Facebook can’t be the only answer, the only solution — we don’t want the publisher to be dependent on Facebook.”

Also Read: Democratic Lawmakers Further Investigate Russia’s Involvement In U.S. Election

Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, which is receiving $1 million together with the Local Media Association to help their member newsrooms develop new revenue streams, said she is optimistic the investment will help.

“I think they are recognizing that trusted, credible content is of benefit not only to local publishers but to them,” she said. (VOA)