Facebook has released a public statement on its blog saying that it doesn’t store any user’s information before required permissions are granted.
On the same day as Facebook found itself in soup for allegedly helping one of its app developers access users’ data, which was harvested by the latter’s client — Cambridge Analytica — to manipulate the US Presidential Elections, it met with another tarnishing incident. The flames of Facebook Cambridge Analytica row couldn’t extinguish and the company has now been reported to be logging call and SMS details for its Android app users. Facebook has responded to the allegations and dismissed that it stores user information without their consent.
Last week, a New Zealand-based developer posted multiple screenshots of the data archive that he downloaded off his Facebook profile. Going through the records, Dylan McKay found something worrying that Facebook had stored about two years records of his calls, SMS, and even deleted contacts that were continuously being uploaded via the Android app. As soon as he shared this unusual incident, many other users pointed the same experience with the data archive of Facebook.
A journalist at Ars Technica verified the sources whom it spoke with, in addition to separately conducting its own test to check if it was true. What he found was shocking as Facebook had logged all the call details, durations, SMS metadata, and contacts (including the ones deleted) from his phone that he used two years ago. Besides, the screenshots that McKay posted on Twitter look legitimate.
However, we could not discover any such instances related to call, SMS, and contacts in the data archive that we downloaded. Our data only had the backup of photos, videos, Messenger messages, timeline posts, and some other data associated with the Facebook apps. Facebook in its earlier response to Ars Technica agreed that it stores data on its servers, terming it as a “normal thing” for apps.
Later, Facebook released a public statement on its blog saying that it doesn’t store any user’s information before required permissions are granted. It said, “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.” This preludes the entire process where the Facebook Android app requires a user’s permission before recording any details. It further added that this is an opt-in feature and can be turned off anytime, which would remove all the data Facebook stored so far.
The Messenger app during the sign-in or sign-up process asks the users if they want their contacts to be continuously uploaded via the app, along with call and text history. Users who allow this setting can turn if off later by going to the app settings. This feature was introduced in 2015 “as a way to more easily find the people you want to connect with.” Similarly, the Facebook Lite app asks the users to turn the service on or skip it. Facebook has emphatically said that it “never sell[s] this data, and this feature does not collect the content of your text messages or calls”
On the contrary, McKay said that he did not turn the feature on his Messenger app, which claims to quash what Facebook said. Moreover, the opt-in screen information that Facebook offers at the time of signing up isn’t understood by many, which is why instead of sugarcoating the hidden details with a saccharine cartoon sending a heart-shaped message that usually looks unsuspicious to the users, Facebook should explain what will be recorded and why.
The users who otherwise fully understand what giving away such permissions to Facebook means placed their beliefs on the social media giant for protection. The scandalised firm is currently on a spree to mend its image while offering more clarity over what the finer details on its website have meant so far.