Meta is being sued for allegedly collecting personally identifiable information (PII) from its Facebook and Instagram users without telling them.
According to the lawsuit, the problem lies in how the company’s Facebook and Instagram platforms handle internet links on an iOS device. Both apps have their own embedded internet browsers (opens in new tab)the WKWebView, which renders the pages when a user clicks a link (as opposed to opening the links in Safari or Chrome, for example).
Personally Identifiable Information
“When users click a link within the Facebook app, Meta automatically redirects them to the in-app browser it monitors instead of the default smartphone browser without notifying users that this is happening or that they are being tracked,” it said it in suit.
“The user information that Meta intercepts, monitors, and records includes personally identifiable information, private health information, text input, and other sensitive confidential facts.”
The case was reinforced by earlier findings from cybersecurity researcher Felix Krause, who brought up the issue in August 2022.
When Krause published his findings, Meta responded that the code injection was done to respect user privacy (opens in new tab) choices.
“We intentionally developed this code to accommodate people’s choices about App Tracking Transparency (ATT) on our platforms,” said a Meta spokesperson The registry. “The code allows us to aggregate data before it is used for targeted advertising or measurement purposes.”
Plaintiffs, Gabriele Willis and Kerreisha Davis, do not dispute Apple’s data collection practices, only the fact that Apple has remained silent about them.
“Meta does not disclose the consequences of browsing, navigating, and communicating with third-party websites within Facebook’s in-app browser — namely, that it overrides their default browser’s privacy settings, which users rely on to enable tracking to block and prevent.” states the complaint.
The company denied the claims, with a spokesman saying, “These allegations are unfounded and we will vigorously defend ourselves.”
“We carefully designed our in-app browser to respect user privacy settings, including how data may be used for ads.”
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