Facebook tracks Android users even if they don't have a Facebook account, study reveals

's data collecting practices have once again been called into question, after a new report revealed that it "routinely tracked" people who do not use the app.

Privacy International analysed 34 apps on the Android mobile operating system with user bases of between 10 and 500 million.

The charity began the study after the scandal surrounding the now defunct London based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients and using it to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.

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Privacy International researchers found that 23 apps sent data to Facebook the moment a user opened them.

Their report , which was presented at Chaos Computer Congress in Leipzig, Germany, stated: "Facebook routinely tracks users, non-users and logged-out users outside its platform through Facebook Business Tools. 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."

The apps included language-learning tool Duolingo, job database Indeed and flight search engine Skyscanner – all of which were tested between August and December 2018.

When contacted by Privacy International, Skyscanner said it had updated its data-collecting practices in the wake of the report.

"Since receiving your letter, we released an update to our app as a priority which will stop the transmission of data via the Facebook SDK," the firm told Privacy International.

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How to stop Facebook from revealing everything about you

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How to stop Facebook from revealing everything about you

1/9

Lock your profile down

If you haven’t done this already, do it now. In Settings, hit the Privacy tab. From here, you can control who gets to see your future posts and friends list. Choose from Public, Friends, Only Me and Custom in the dropdown menu.

2/9

Limit old posts

Annoyingly, changing this has no effect on who’s able to see your past Facebook posts. Instead, on the Privacy page, you have to click on Limit Past Posts, then select Limit Old Posts and finally hit Confirm on the pop-up.

3/9

Make yourself harder to find

You can stop completely random people from adding you by selecting Friends of Friends from the dropdown menu in the Who can send you friend requests? section of the Privacy page. It’s also worth limiting who can find your Facebook profile with your number and email address. At the bottom of the page is the option to prevent search engines outside of Facebook from linking to your profile.

4/9

Control access to your Timeline

You can limit who gets to post things on your Timeline and who gets to see posts on your Timeline too. In Settings, go to Timeline and Tagging and edit the sections you want to lock down.

5/9

Block people

When you block someone, they won’t be able to see things you post on your Timeline, tag you, invite you to events or groups, start conversations with you or add you as a friend. To do it, go to Settings and Blocking. Annoyingly, you have to block people on Messenger separately. You can also add friends to your Restricted list here, which means they’ll still be friends with you but will only be able to see your public posts and things you share on a mutual friend's Timeline.

6/9

Review tags

One of Facebook’s handiest privacy features is the ability to review posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your Timeline. They’ll still be visible on the News Feed while they’re fresh, but won’t be tied to your profile forever. In Timeline and Tagging, enable Timeline review controls.

7/9

Clean up your apps

You can view a list of all of the apps you’ve connected to your Facebook account by going to Settings and Apps. The list might be longer than you expected it to be. It’s worth tidying this up to ensure things you no longer use lose access to your personal information. If you don’t want to log into websites and apps with your facebook account, scroll down and turn Platform off.

8/9

Change your ad preferences

You can view a list of everything Facebook thinks you’re into and tinker with your ad preferences by going to Settings and Adverts. A lot more information is displayed on the desktop site than the app, so we’d recommend doing this on a computer.

9/9

Download your data

Facebook lets you download all of the data it has on you, including the posts you’ve shared, your messages and photos, ads you’ve clicked on and even the IP addresses that are logged when you log in or out of the site. It’s a hell of a lot of information, which you should download to ensure you never over-share on the social network again.

1/9

Lock your profile down

If you haven’t done this already, do it now. In Settings, hit the Privacy tab. From here, you can control who gets to see your future posts and friends list. Choose from Public, Friends, Only Me and Custom in the dropdown menu.

2/9

Limit old posts

Annoyingly, changing this has no effect on who’s able to see your past Facebook posts. Instead, on the Privacy page, you have to click on Limit Past Posts, then select Limit Old Posts and finally hit Confirm on the pop-up.

3/9

Make yourself harder to find

You can stop completely random people from adding you by selecting Friends of Friends from the dropdown menu in the Who can send you friend requests? section of the Privacy page. It’s also worth limiting who can find your Facebook profile with your number and email address. At the bottom of the page is the option to prevent search engines outside of Facebook from linking to your profile.

4/9

Control access to your Timeline

You can limit who gets to post things on your Timeline and who gets to see posts on your Timeline too. In Settings, go to Timeline and Tagging and edit the sections you want to lock down.

5/9

Block people

When you block someone, they won’t be able to see things you post on your Timeline, tag you, invite you to events or groups, start conversations with you or add you as a friend. To do it, go to Settings and Blocking. Annoyingly, you have to block people on Messenger separately. You can also add friends to your Restricted list here, which means they’ll still be friends with you but will only be able to see your public posts and things you share on a mutual friend's Timeline.

6/9

Review tags

One of Facebook’s handiest privacy features is the ability to review posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your Timeline. They’ll still be visible on the News Feed while they’re fresh, but won’t be tied to your profile forever. In Timeline and Tagging, enable Timeline review controls.

7/9

Clean up your apps

You can view a list of all of the apps you’ve connected to your Facebook account by going to Settings and Apps. The list might be longer than you expected it to be. It’s worth tidying this up to ensure things you no longer use lose access to your personal information. If you don’t want to log into websites and apps with your facebook account, scroll down and turn Platform off.

8/9

Change your ad preferences

You can view a list of everything Facebook thinks you’re into and tinker with your ad preferences by going to Settings and Adverts. A lot more information is displayed on the desktop site than the app, so we’d recommend doing this on a computer.

9/9

Download your data

Facebook lets you download all of the data it has on you, including the posts you’ve shared, your messages and photos, ads you’ve clicked on and even the IP addresses that are logged when you log in or out of the site. It’s a hell of a lot of information, which you should download to ensure you never over-share on the social network again.

Facebook told Privacy International that sharing data is "common practice for many companies" and is useful for both users and the companies involved.

"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."

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