How Facebook is tracking Android users without a Facebook account

Security / Tech

This new research says that 42.55% of free apps on the Play Store can share your data with Facebook, even without an account.

There are literally over a billion people in the world with a Facebook account. There are also many more who do not have a Facebook account or perhaps are deleting their account soon. Given that Facebook has been in the news a lot recently, you too may be thinking about deleting your account. Maybe you’re thinking that once you delete your account Facebook will no longer be able to track you.

New research shows that Android users are still being tracked by Facebook even if they do not have a Facebook account. How are they doing this? Through third-party apps you download from the Google Play Store. This new research says that 42.55% of free apps on the Play Store can share your data with Facebook, even without an account. Among the apps that researchers found could share your data with Facebook are:

  • KAYAK Flights, Hotels & Cars
  • Opera Browser
  • Duolingo
  • Clean Master
  • Bible
  • Period Tracker Clue
  • Dropbox
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Spotify Music
  • Indeed Job Search

The list is longer than this and each of these apps has been downloaded between 10 and 500 million times. The researchers found that over 61% of the apps they tested automatically transferred data to Facebook the moment the app was opened.

All of this research was presented by Frederike Kaltheuner and Christopher Weatherhead and you can watch the 42-minute presentation below. It’s well worth your time to check it out if you’re interested on how Facebook tracks people.

In this talk, we’re looking at third-party tracking on Android. We’ve captured and decrypted data in transit between our own devices and Facebook servers. It turns out that some apps routinely send Facebook information about your device and usage patterns – the second the app is opened. We’ll walk you through the technical part of our analysis and end with a call to action: We believe that both Facebook and developers can do more to avoid oversharing, profiling and damaging the privacy of their users.

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