Facebook Harvesting user data from heart rate, ovulation iOS apps

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Facebook has been collecting user data under our noses for its ads for some time now, as reports revealed last year. However, some iOS health apps have apparently also been sharing sensitive data such as recorded heart rates, period cycles and even ovulation to Facebook. Here's what we know about these apps.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some health apps have been confirmed to send the user's inputted health data to Facebook without the user's knowledge. Some of these apps, like the Instant Heart Rate, Realtor.com, and the Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, supply the data they collect from users without their knowledge. The data is used to help Facebook's personalized ads adjust to the user's preferences but is also known to be an invasive process to the users themselves. At times, the platform will use these data to start sending out hygiene and health product ads when it knows about your condition such as maintenance drugs or period.

While Facebook users can completely unsubscribe from the personalized ads, it doesn't stop these apps from collecting data and sending them to Facebook at all. Moreover, the Facebook app was also confirmed to collect data if there's no account logged in the app or even if the smartphone user isn't even using Facebook at all. As of now, Apple's rules don't require these apps to share all the partners they're planning to share their collected data with and some can actually be blocked. However, some sensitive and personalized data, like fitness and health information, are easily shared by these apps once collected.

Apple and Facebook launched separate crackdowns on these apps which share collected data discreetly as these apps violate privacy rules for both entities. The apps were asked to cease sharing the information once proven. While the data gathered by these apps can't be taken back, the user's only line of defense is not having these apps from their phone. Wall Street Journal noted that six of the best health apps on the iOS are doing to this right now.

For now, we'll have to wait for a major announcement from Apple and Facebook to find out how to fully prevent these situations from happening again.

This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.

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