A new investigation by a former Google engineer has revealed that Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, rewrites websites that its users visit.
Meta was able to achieve this thanks to its “in-app browser” feature. The in-app browser brings users to a webpage controlled by the company, instead of displaying the webpage of the link clicked on in the web browser of choice, such as Safari or Firefox.
The provision of the results of the clicked links via an in-app browser therefore enables Meta to track users browsing activities.
“The Instagram app injects their tracking code into every website shown, including when clicking on ads, enabling them [to] monitor all user interactions, like every button and link tapped, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses, and credit card numbers,” said Felix Krause, a privacy researcher who founded an app development tool purchased by Google in 2017.
Meta defended the company’s actions, explaining that the decision to inject tracking code only works with users’ permission on whether they are allowed to track it. The company also explained that the tool is only used to aggregate data before it is used for targeted advertising or measurement purposes for users who have opted out of such tracking.
The sources for this piece include an article in TheGuardian.