With or Without Facebook, Android sends data to the social network

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Even though it's not possible to completely opt out of the data sharing, it's possible to minimize the data sharing by segregating data, resetting your advertising ID and opt-out of data personalization, and blocking apps that use Facebook's Software Development Kit.

"Facebook offers analytics and advertising services to app developers, which help them receive aggregated information about how people engage with their apps - this is a common practice for many companies", Facebook told Privacy International. Privacy International pointed out that this behaviour happened regardless of whether the user was logged out of Facebook, or was without an account on the social network.

A new study carried out by Privacy International has discovered that nearly 20 out of 34 popular Android apps are violating the European Union privacy law by sending sensitive user data to Facebook without permission, Engadget is reporting.

The report added that it was not able to find out what the information was used for and that it raises "questions about transparency and use of app data".

According to the group, 61% of these apps would start sending data the second they were opened - before the person using the app could even be asked for their consent.

Facebook and its leadership are coming under intense scrutiny at the moment amid ongoing concern about the tech giant's handling of user data.

Other popular apps that the study determined send data to Facebook include MyFitnessPal, Duolingo, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, Spotify, Yelp, Shazam, and Indeed.

Under GDPR rules, apps are required to obtain explicit consent from users before they begin collecting their data. 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.

In its report on the subject, based on testing 34 Android apps that have between 10 to 500 million users, the charity said it was "greatly concerned" with how user data is "exploited" in the back-end systems of Facebook and Google.

A YEAR AGO, hearing that Android apps were gossiping about you to Facebook would have barely elicited a shrug.

"If combined, data from different apps can paint a fine-grained and intimate picture of people's activities, interests, behaviors and routines, some of which can reveal special category data, including information about people's health or religion", the report reads.

The tested apps were for Android phones only, not iPhones.

In a response to Privacy International, Facebook acknowledged that developers didn't have the option to disable transmission of the "SDK initialized" data before June.

Further, the report highlights recommendations for users on how to protect their data. Some of the developers who made the changes say the problem continues to linger even with the new Facebook SDK in place.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy protection is the company's top priority in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.