In a recent blog post, Facebook denied accusations that it had secretly tracked users call and SMS data on Android devices until last fall. The company explained that it had never harvested the data behind users’ back and never sold the data to third parties.
However, multiple user testimonies show otherwise. It all started with a New Zealand man’s investigation. Dylan McKay was curious to learn what data the social network site had stored about his contacts.
After downloading an archive from Facebook, he found the social media platform had accurate data logs of his every call and SMS sent from his Android phone in the past two years. The data included phone numbers, length of calls, names, along with SMS metadata.
Downloaded my facebook data as a ZIP file
Somehow it has my entire call history with my partner’s mum pic.twitter.com/CIRUguf4vD
— Dylan McKay (@dylanmckaynz) March 21, 2018
Several other Facebook users reported a similar experience. Some of them found that the Facebook records contain call and sms logs from devices they were no longer using. You can too download your Facebook data as a zip file from the website’s General Account Settings page.
Facebook replied that its mission is to make it easy for users to keep in touch and connect with other users. This is why its messaging app is automatically uploading users’ phone contacts as soon as those users sign in on a device.
Facebook underscored that users can opt out from the contact uploading feature when the app asks for permission to access contacts. Also, Facebook invites users concerned about their privacy to delete the data from their profiles.
Facebook Messenger now explicitly requests access to call and SMS logs. But in the past versions, Facebook’s mobile apps were not that transparent about the issue. Before Android 4.1, if you allowed the Facebook app to access your contacts on Android, the app gained access to all call and SMS logs automatically. The practice continued until October 2017.
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