Last week, the Wall Street Journal put a spotlight on Facebook’s collection and use of sensitive data. Their real-time connection to smartphone apps such as Flo Health can offer Facebook insights into their audience’s:
Naturally, this has led to claims that Facebook has used this data to inform its advertisers and aid in targeting. This finding drove New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo to order an investigation from New York’s Department of State and Department of Financial Services.
If the claim is true, this finding represents another overstep on Facebook’s user privacy practices and a possible call to reform their privacy practices further.
Facebook released a statement expressing their willingness to assist in the investigation.
“As [the Wall Street Journal] reported, we require the other app developers to be clear with their users about the information they are sharing with us, and we prohibit app developers from sending us sensitive data.”
The data being shared with Facebook stems from App Events. These are set up by the advertiser on their app. App Events share data from within an app back into Facebook to record when events or actions take place. In this case, real-time physical body changes are sent to Facebook.
This information can then be used by the same company to re-target their users based on the collected data. To Facebook’s merit, the platform tells app developers not to share sensitive data to the platform, and they do seek out misconduct.
Facebook even expressed in a statement: “We also take steps to detect and remove data that should not be shared with us.”
But all that means is they’ll try and make sure advertisers don’t use menstrual cycles to target ads. And in this case, that sentiment may be too little, too late.