Facebook is once again the focus of a privacy scandal, but this time the social network may not be as guilty as some might think.
A Wall Street Journal release today revealed that 11 popular mobile applications are sending data to Facebook servers, containing sensitive information such as heart rate, blood pressure, menstrual cycle or even pregnancy status.
This data is not collected by Facebook itself, but by application developers using Facebook's SDK to collect metrics and analytics on how users are working on their apps.
The data is sent to Facebook servers for storage in the form of "application events", which are specific files for each application. As mentioned above, some applications may send health-related information, depending on the profile of each application.
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However, things are not so dramatic and one-sided, as WSJ journalists wrote in their publication.
There is nothing special about Facebook's SDK. It's another SDK like many more for analytics from mobile devices.
In the words of a former Facebook product manager, who expressed his complaints about WSJ's publication in Twitter, the Facebook analytics data SDK is no different from Google Analytics.
By the way that Google Analytics scripts are built into billions of sites and collect data about the pages that users visit, and which buttons and links they click on, Facebook does so.
Just like Google, Facebook does not force app developers to use SDK's analytics. There are many other mobile analytics SDKs on the market, and application developers use the Facebook tool with their own free will.
If 11 developers mentioned by the Wall Street Journal had used another SDK to analyze data and sent the same data to another analytical company, it would not have been taught. Now everyone is crazy just because Facebook is.
"Facebook dominates mobile advertising spending, like Google dominates desktop advertising. "So we need a mobile analytics platform," said Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook product manager and current founder of the AdGrok advertising platform.
"Facebook does not deal with this data collection, nor does it store it in any useful form (it is stored as 'facts', so that the developer can sort user actions)," says Martínez.
"Facebook here works like a bean counter."