Facebook has found itself in the grips of yet another scandal brewing around the globe, this time involving extremely personal information. It was revealed last week that the social media giant has been collecting vast amounts of personal data through about 11 popular health and fitness apps, without people’s knowledge.
The latest issue, which casts a grim light on Facebook’s respect for users’ consent and personal data, comes on the heels of a number of scandals over the past year – ranging from the furor over last year’s Cambridge Analytica data harvesting operation to a recent report by TechCrunch revealing that the company secretly paid users, including minors as young as 13, to install an app that would siphon network and web data from phones in direct violation of Apple’s developer terms.
The Wall Street Journal‘s new report reveals that Facebook has used several apps to collect deeply sensitive user data that goes far beyond phone habits or web history, and includes users’ weight, blood pressure, and even ovulation status. After testing 70 apps, WSJ found 11 apps that have been leaking data to Facebook, even in cases when the user is logged out of the social media platform or doesn’t have an account at all.
The fitness and health apps, which were equipped with Facebook-provided developer software, were primarily meant to determine ad placement. Apps included the highly popular period-tracking app Flo Period and Ovulation Tracker – which claims to have 25 million active users – which informed Facebook when users were menstruating or if users indicated that they were attempting to become pregnant.
The Journal’s testing also revealed that Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor sent heart rate data to the company while home sales and rental search app Realtor informed Facebook of the listings viewed by users as well as the prices of homes and those marked as “favorites.”
Facebook is able to collect the data due to the built-in features of its Software Development Kit (SDK), the open source software tools that allow developers to create apps that integrate with the social platform for the purpose of ad targeting based on user data.
The Journal’s tests were repeated by online privacy tracker Disconnect, which confirmed the results.
The report provoked a furious response from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who directed the New York Department of State and Department of Financial Services to investigate Facebook. He also called on federal regulators to get involved in what he called an “outrageous abuse” and “invasion of consumer privacy” in a statement.
“New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information is safe, and we must hold internet companies — no matter how big — responsible for upholding the law and protecting the information of smartphone users.”
I really wish that @apple would take the immediate step and kick off Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, Flo Health Inc.’s Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, and the app for https://t.co/OZB4w4CiqQ with immediate effect until their apps are no longer plundering this data for Facebook.
— DHH (@dhh) February 22, 2019
Facebook has been mired in a bevy of lawsuits and inquiries around the globe over its violation of user privacy, which became an especially hot topic following the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year that saw the company allow third-party apps to construct “psychological profiles” of its users for the purpose of micro-targeted political campaigns.
But the latest revelation is unlikely to change the intrinsic nature of Facebook, a private corporation whose bread-and-butter consists of user data and targeted ads. To demand that Facebook abandons targeted ads – which yield a far higher profit than scattershot advertising that is blind to demographic groups or what’s relevant to users – would be tantamount to demanding that the company throw its investors and stockholders under the bus.
Simply put, Facebook’s financial interest – or greed – has been exposed as running counter to the public interest. Are any of us surprised that a business model based on the extraction of our personal information has resulted in the outright violation and abuse of our most sensitive secrets?
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.