Facebook's increasingly suspect manner of collecting data seems to be running a little deeper than most users would readily think it is.
And this goes even for those who are pretty much sure there's a big data collection effort behind the scenes – but then say they don't mind their data being used (and abused) by the giant.
It's not just everything you overtly do online, correlated with everything you seem to be interested in – therefore, giving Facebook, an insatiable data collecting and advertising tech behemoth, a whole lot of information it wants from you. The latest revelations show that Facebook app users are allowing it to collect data from the depth of their operating system, too.
“Facebook scans system libraries from their Android app user's phone in the background and uploads them to their server,” code researcher Jane Manchun Wong writes on Twitter.
Facebook can upload the entire files of all system libraries to their server through their Android apps
The app compresses each system library file using gzip and uploads them to server
Interestingly, the files are uploaded to a specific collection that's related to my phone pic.twitter.com/YX0S4rmjAG
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) August 30, 2019
In a series of tweets, the researcher adds that she discovered Facebook's sever had at one point collected metadata of 2,233 system libraries from her phone – “in which 1,162 system libraries are pending to be uploaded.”
Facebook does this using Global Library Collector (GLC) – “it periodically uploads metadata of system libraries to the server,” Wong writes, and adds:
“There doesn't seem to be an opt-out option for Facebook Global Library Collector, nor does it not seem to be possible to view what they have uploaded from our devices. Not sure what's the purpose of GLC, but I guess it can be used for determining system integrity, compatibility.”
Software libraries make up the core part of an app's code, that allows the programmer and the language they write in to compile and execute their code.
Beyond Android's own licensing and business model, some reactions on the web to the news of Facebook collecting this information without its users' consent have brought forth concerns that the practice might even violate copyright laws, and Facebook's own terms of service.
Hopefully, Facebook will answer any questions raised around the issue – and here's one for Google: Why does the Facebook app continue to be bundled with your Android operating system – something that at this point seems more certain than death and taxes both? And why is it near impossible for a regular user to get rid of the Facebook app from an Android device – whether or not they use it?
Facebook and Google, however dominant they might be, are still supposed to be competitors – but are they really? Or might these giants be colluding to advance their monetary interests well ahead of any other?
In the meantime – before, and if, Facebook addresses these issues – we are left to speculate on why exactly the company chose to be collecting system libraries from Android devices running its app.