Menlo Park-based social networking giant Facebook has released a statement fact-checking reports about the company logging phone calls and text messages without user permission.
In a March 25th, 2018 media release, Facebook said that “call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android.”
The company went on to state that users can, “at any time” turn off call- and text-logging in the settings menu of Facebook’s Android suite of apps.
“…call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature…”
“While we receive certain permissions from Android, uploading this information has always been opt-in only,” reads an excerpt from the company’s media release.
The company further explained that the “contact importers are fairly common among social apps” and are designed to allow users to more easily connect with individuals they may already know.
“This was first introduced in Messenger in 2015, and later offered as an option in Facebook Lite, a lightweight version of Facebook for Android,” reads an excerpt from the same release.
Facebook also reiterated that the data the company logs is not sold to third parties and is “securely stored.”
Users report Facebook logging calls and text messages
Facebook’s latest announcement comes in the wake of several reports — including one published by Ars Technica — detailing the manner in which Facebook’s Android apps scraped users’ call and text message data.
Ars Technica spoke with New Zealand-based developer Dylan McKay, who told the publication that his call and text data was archived by Facebook, even though he “never explicitly gave the app permission to read his SMS records and call history.”
Other sources who spoke with Ars Technica also confirmed that Facebook’s Android apps logged all incoming and outgoing phone calls and text message — including duration, name of the contact in question, and even the date and time when the calls and texts were placed.
“…never explicitly gave the app permission to read his SMS records and call history.”
What Facebook didn’t seem to have logged, however, was the content of those calls and texts.
It’s important to note that Android began forcing app developers to explicitly request permission for granular access to device features — including the device’s microphone, camera and contacts data — with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Prior to Android 6.0, app developers requested blanket access when users installed an app through the app store. While users could deny access to apps, doing so would simply prevent the app from downloading.
I was able to download my own Facebook archive using the company’s ‘Download Your Information’ tool.
While Facebook hadn’t tracked all of my incoming and outgoing phone calls and text messages, the company did seem to have records of all of my friends’ contact information, if they were also contacts in my phone.
However, when a different MobileSyrup reporter downloaded their information, Facebook did have logs of their phone calls and text messages.
“While we receive certain permissions from Android, uploading this information has always been opt-in only.”
Facebook has recently come under heavy scrutiny for its lack of privacy protections, especially following news stories published about data analytics company Cambridge Analytica abusing the privacy of roughly 50 million users.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica crisis, while other tech leaders — including Apple CEO Tim Cook stating that the tech industry needs greater legislative regulation to prevent these kinds of issues.
Source: Facebook, Ars Technica