Apps Can Identify And Tell Facebook About Last Time Users Had Sex

Apps Can Identify And Tell Facebook About Last Time Users Had Sex

New Delhi: A study reports that at present there are atleast two menstruation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem who tracks and were sharing intimate details of users' sexual health with Facebook and other entities.

The report is published by Britain-based privacy watchdog Privacy International. In some cases, those details, which are self-recorded by users in the app, included when the user last had sex, the type of contraception used, their moods and whether they were ovulating. 

This study raises questions about the security of the most private information in an age when employers, insurers and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people.

The information was shared with the social media giant via the Facebook Software Development Kit, a product that allows developers to create apps for specific operating systems, track analytics and monetize their apps through Facebook's advertising network. Privacy International found that both Maya and MIA began sharing data with Facebook as soon as the user installed the app on their phone and opened it, even before a privacy policy was signed.

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Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said advertisers did not have access to the sensitive health information shared by these apps. In a statement, he said Facebook's ad system "does not leverage information gleaned from people's activity across other apps or websites" when advertisers choose target users by interest. BuzzFeed first reported the news.

Period- and pregnancy-tracking apps such as Maya and MIA have climbed in popularity as fun, friendly companions that provide insights into the often daunting world of fertility and pregnancy. They can also be used to track sexual health more generally, moods and other intimate data. But many apps aren't subject to the same rules as most health data.

Also, It appears the data could be shared more broadly than many users recognize, as flagged by the Privacy International study.

Several period- and pregnancy-tracking apps have had been called out for sharing health data with women's employers and insurance companies, as well as for security flaws that reveal intimate information. As a result, many women say they've devised strategies to use the apps without revealing all of their most sensitive information. Among those strategies: using fake names, documenting only scattered details and even inputting incorrect data.

Facebook, the world's largest social media platform, with 1.2 billion daily users, is asking users to trust it with more and more sensitive information than at any time in the past. Last week, the company launched Facebook Dating in the U.S., a matchmaking service that suggests potential love interests to users based on preferences, interests and Facebook activity.

At the same time, Facebook has come under fire in recent years for scandals involving misinformation, fake accounts and breaches of trust. That includes the 2018 revelation from a whistleblower that Facebook had allowed political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data from millions of users. In that case, the data was harvested through a third-party quiz app.
The developer of App Maya, Plackal Tech said in its statement to Privacy International that it would remove the Facebook Software Development Kit from a new version of its service.

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