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Facebook Sues Data Analytics Firm for Improperly Harvesting User Data

Data analytics firm OneAudience being sued by Facebook over allegations of paying app developers to harvest user data.

On Thursday, Facebook filed a federal lawsuit in California Court against OneAudience, a New Jersey-based marketing firm mainly involved in data analytics. The social media giant claimed that the firm was paying app developers to secretly harvest its users' data by getting an infectious software SDK installed onto their apps. The SDK was planted in various gaming, shopping, and utility-type applications available to download from the Google Play Store, as per the court documents.

A software development kit also known as SDK is a downloadable collection of software development tools used for developing applications. It consists of the basic tools a developer would require to build a platform-specific app with ease and excellence. In other words, SDK basically enables the programming of mobile applications. However, these packages have their drawbacks too as they also contain tools like trackers and it collects information about devices and app usage to send it back to the SDK maker.

Facebook alleged in the lawsuit that OneAudience has blatantly misused the feature "login with Facebook" to acquire unauthorized access to sensitive user data without any permissions. OneAudience has also been accused of paying apps to gain access to users' Twitter and Google data when they log into the infected apps using their account info.

"With respect to Facebook, OneAudience used the malicious SDK – without authorization from Facebook – to access and obtain a user's name, email address, locale (i.e. the country that the user logged in from), time zone, Facebook ID, and, in limited instances, gender," Facebook remarked.

Earlier in November 2019, social media giants Twitter and Facebook told that OneAudience collected private user information and the incident left hundreds of users affected as their privacy was compromised when OneAudience illegally collected their names, email addresses, usernames, genders and latest posts through SDK.

While commenting on the matter, Jessica Romero, Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation, said "Facebook's measures included disabling apps, sending the company a cease and desist letter, and requesting their participation in an audit, as required by our policies. OneAudience declined to cooperate."

"This is the latest in our efforts to protect people and increase accountability of those who abuse the technology industry and users," she further added.
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