Facebook questioned over tracking call, SMS data from Android devices: Report

Facebook has apparently been collecting your call and SMS data for years, and without your knowledge in some cases.

  • Published: March 26, 2018 11:05 AM IST

Amid the entire Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is now being questioned about allegedly collecting phone numbers and text messages from Android devices.

Going by the report shared by Ars Technica, a users who was going through the data Facebook had gathered from him, found that the platform had years of contact names, telephone numbers, call lengths and text messages. “Facebook also had about two years’ worth of phone call metadata from his Android phone, including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received.” Reportedly, a number of other Facebook users also reported a similar experience.

To this, Facebook responded in a blog post denying that the company collected call data surreptitiously. “You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people’s call and SMS (text) history without their permission. This is not the case,” the blog reads.

Facebook explains that call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. It insists that in order to enable the feature, people have to expressly agree to use it. If, at any time, a user no longer wishes to use the feature they can turn it off in settings, and all previously shared call and text history shared via that app is deleted.

Facebook basically uses the phone-contact data as part of its friend recommendation algorithm. And in recent versions of the Facebook Messenger application for Android and Facebook Lite devices, users receive a more explicit request for access to call logs and SMS logs on Android and Facebook Lite devices.

However, the loophole here is that even if you did not allow permission to Messenger, it is likely that you may have given it inadvertently for years through Facebook’s mobile apps, and that is because of the way Android has handled permissions for accessing call logs in the past.

Which means, around the time your device was running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or a little before that, if you ever granted permission to read contacts during Facebook’s installation on Android, that permission also granted Facebook access to call and message logs by default.

The reports of the data collection comes after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought advertisement space in bunch of American and British newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In the ads, Zuckerberg says that the social media platform doesn’t deserve to hold personal information if it can’t protect it.

The ad goes on to talk about a quiz app built by a Cambridge University researcher, who leaked Facebook data of millions of people four years ago. Zuckerberg said that this was a “breach of trust” and that Facebook is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Zuckerberg also said that Facebook is limiting the data apps receive when users sign in. It’s also investigating every app that had access to large amounts of data. “We expect there are others. And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected,” the ad read.

  • Published Date: March 26, 2018 11:05 AM IST