Facebook users sue Meta, accusing the company of tracking on iOS through a loophole

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Apple’s major privacy update to iOS last year made it much more difficult for apps to track user behavior beyond their own borders, but a new lawsuit alleges that Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta kept snooping through a workaround.

In order to circumvent Apple’s new restrictions, according to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and embedded below, Meta allegedly monitored users through Facebook’s in-app browser, which opens links inside the app.

Anyone who is impacted by the potential class-action lawsuit, which was originally reported by Bloomberg, may be able to sign on, which in the case of Facebook may include hundreds of millions of U.S. users.

The plaintiffs allege that Meta follows users’ online activity by funneling them into the web browser built into Facebook and injecting JavaScript into the sites they visit. That code makes it possible for the company to monitor “every single interaction with external websites,” including where they tap, and what passwords and other text they enter:

Now, even when users do not consent to being tracked, Meta tracks Facebook users’ online activity and communications with external third-party websites by injecting JavaScript code into those sites. When users click on a link within the Facebook app, Meta automatically directs them to the in-app browser it is monitoring instead of the smartphone’s default browser, without telling users that this is happening or they are being tracked.

Apple introduced iOS 14.5 in April of last year, striking a massive blow to social media companies like Meta that relied on tracking users’ behavior for advertising purposes. The company cited the iOS changes specifically in its earning calls as it prepped investors to adjust to the new normal for its ad targeting business, describing Apple’s privacy changes as a “headwind” that it would need to overcome.

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