Security

If you care about privacy, security researchers say uninstall this iPhone app immediately


Security researchers say iPhone users who care about their privacy should delete Facebook from their devices immediately. The report comes from Forbes and makes note of ways that Facebook continues to track users even after they’ve chosen the option to not be tracked in their iPhone’s privacy settings.

Back in April, we found out just how much data Facebook harvests from your phone, and how badly the changes Apple was making to its privacy features might hurt the company’s info gathering services. Now, though, it looks like Facebook is using underhanded means to get the info it wants, even if you tell the app not to gather that information.

iPhone privacy concerns around Facebook are growing

Facebook-News-FeedImage source: Facebook

Apple added the option to disable app tracking in iOS 14, marking a big step forward for consumer privacy. Unfortunately, it looks like Facebook has found ways to continue tracking users even after you’ve asked the application not to.

According to Forbes, security researchers are now warning iPhone users to completely remove the Facebook application from their phones. The reason? Those same researchers say that Facebook continues to use your iPhone’s accelerometer to track a constant stream of your movements.

Facebook can that info to track where you’ve been throughout the day. It can also check if you’re in particular places, or when interacting with Facebook’s various apps and services. Researchers also say that Facebook can even use this data to match you with people near you, even if you don’t know them.

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It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that Facebook has gone around Apple’s privacy features to track users. Earlier this month, Forbes cybersecurity writer Zak Doffman warned iPhone users that Facebook still captures location data using the metadata gathered from the photos that you take, as well as your IP address. It continues to gather this information, even if you choose to never let it track your location.

Facebook’s lack of transparency

One of the biggest concerns with this type of info harvesting is that Facebook continues to do it behind the user’s back. Because it can (and does) still do it when users have explicitly disabled tracking, which makes it feel malicious in nature.

Security researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk say that Facebook can determine your location even if you don’t allow it to. It does this by grouping up the data from your accelerometer with the data gathered from others. The two included a complete breakdown of the data that Facebook can infer from that information in a blog post.

Bakry and Mysk also noted that WhatsApp and Instagram both monitor information the same way as Facebook. You can disable it in WhatsApp, though. With Instagram, it only appears to do it when the user has a DM open. It is still unclear why it would need that data in the first place. Facebook says it monitors the accelerometer for features such as its panoramic photo mode, as well as its shake-to-report function. However, as Doffman notes, it could only activate that monitoring when needed instead of all the time.

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