New York’s Governor Orders Investigation Into Facebook Over App Concerns

The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has ordered an investigation into reports that Facebook Inc may be using apps on users’ smartphones to collect personal information about them.

Alerted By Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal prompted the Governor to order New York’s Department of State and Department of Financial Services (DFS) to investigate Facebook when the paper reported that Facebook may have more access than it should to data from certain apps, sometimes even when a person isn’t even signed in to Facebook.

Health Data

It has been reported that the kind of data that some apps allegedly share with Facebook includes health-related information such as weight, blood pressure and ovulation status.

The alleged sharing of this kind of sensitive and personal data, whether or not a person is logged-in Facebook, prompted Governor Cuomo to call such practice an “outrageous abuse of privacy.”

Defence

Facebook’s defence against these allegations, which appears to have prompted a short-lived but noticeable fall in Facebook’s share value, was to point out that WSJ’s report focused on how other apps use people’s data to create ads.

Facebook added that it requires other app developers to be clear with their users about the information they are sharing with Facebook and that it prohibits app developers from sending sensitive data to Facebook.

The social media giant also stressed that it tries to detect and remove any data that should not be shared with it.

Lawsuits Pending

This appears to be just one of several legal fronts where Facebook will need to defend itself.  For example, Facebook is still facing a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation into the alleged inappropriate sharing of information belonging to 87 million Facebook users with now-defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Apple Also Accused By Governor Over FaceTime Bug

New York’s Governor Cuomo and New York Attorney General Letitia James have also announced an investigation into Apple Inc’s alleged failure to warn customers about a bug in its FaceTime app that could inadvertently allow eavesdropping as iPhones users were able to listen to conversations of others who have not yet accepted a video call.

DFS Involvement

The Department of Financial Services (DFS), which is one of the two agencies that have been ordered to investigate this latest Facebook app sharing matter has only recently begun to get more involved in digital matters, particularly by producing the country’s first cybersecurity rules governing state-regulated financial institutions such as banks, insurers and credit monitors.

Some commentators have expressed concern, however, about the DFS saying last month that DFS life insurers could use social media posts in underwriting their policies, on the condition that they did not discriminate based on race, colour, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected classes.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

You could be forgiven for thinking that after the scandal over Facebook’s unauthorised sharing of the personal details of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica, that Facebook may have learned its lesson about the sharing of personal data and may have tried harder to uncover and plug any loopholes that could allow this to happen. The tech giant still has several lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over privacy issues pending, and this latest revelation about the sharing very personal health information certainly won’t help its cause. Clearly, as the involvement of the FDS shows, there needs to be more oversight of (and investigation into) apps that share their data with Facebook, and possibly the need for more legislation and regulation of the smart app / smart tech ecosystem.

There are ways to stop Facebook from sharing your data with other apps via your phone settings and by disabling Facebook’s data sharing platform.  You can find instructions here: https://www.techbout.com/stop-facebook-from-sharing-your-personal-data-with-other-apps-37307/