Meta sued for bypassing Apple's privacy rules to snoop on users

Last year, Apple launched safeguards to protect iPhone users from having their internet activity tracked

FILE - In this June 19, 2017, file photo, a user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass. Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission said in a statement Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, that Facebook is violating city and state laws that require disclosure of who pays for political advertising. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
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Meta Platforms has been sued for allegedly building a secret workaround to safeguards that Apple launched last year to protect iPhone users from having their internet activity tracked.

In a proposed class-action complaint filed on Wednesday in San Francisco federal court, two Facebook users accused the company of skirting Apple’s 2021 privacy rules and breaching state and federal laws limiting the unauthorised collection of personal data. A similar complaint was filed in the same court last week.

The suits are based on a report by data privacy researcher Felix Krause, who said that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram apps for Apple’s iOS inject JavaScript code on to websites visited by users. Krause said the code allowed the apps to track “anything you do on any website”, including typing passwords.

Responding to the report, Meta acknowledged that the Facebook app monitors browser activity, but denied it was illegally collecting user data.

As per the suits, Meta’s collection of user data from the Facebook app helps it to circumvent rules instituted by Apple in 2021. These require all third-party apps to obtain consent from users before tracking their activities, online or off.

Apple’s privacy changes cut deep into Meta’s ability to collect user data from iOS users, costing it $10 billion in its first year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.

The Facebook app gets around Apple privacy rules by opening web links in an in-app browser, rather than the user’s default browser, Wednesday’s complaint said.

“This allows Meta to intercept, monitor and record its users’ interactions and communications with third parties, providing data to Meta that it aggregates, analyses and uses to boost its advertising revenue,” according to the suit.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated: September 22, 2022, 6:22 AM