Published: Mon, March 26, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Facebook on Android collected call and text message data for years

Facebook on Android collected call and text message data for years

That is what Facebook did up until Google squashed the workaround in version 4.0 of the Android API in October 2017. In looking at his grandmother's data dump, he also discovered that Facebook had been collecting SMS records from 2015 to 2017.

Facebook for years collected detailed call logs from users' Android smartphones, including the time of calls, the names and numbers of call recipients, and call duration, according to a new report. It added that turning it off in the relevant app's settings would delete that info. And in recent versions of the Messenger application for Android and Facebook Lite devices, a more explicit request is made to users for access to call logs and SMS logs on Android and Facebook Lite devices. While scanning the information Facebook had stored about his contacts, Dylan McKay discovered something distressing: 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.

Facebook's access was enabled in part by the Android operating system, which in older versions granted permission to access call logs along with contacts. "So, the first time you sign in on your phone to a messaging or social app, it's a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts". Facebook has recently been offering a prompt to "continuously upload" contact data, including call and text history, but it's not clear when this prompt started appearing in relation to the historic data gathering. The majority of iOS apps can not access call history or SMS messages, and Facebook's iOS app is not able to capture this data on an iPhone.

Facebook users can delete their contact data in the browser version of the site. The permission structure was changed in the Android API in version 16.

Facebook is under pressure from governments, investors and advertisers following allegations by a whistleblower that British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users' information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

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