Published: Mon, March 26, 2018
Sci-tech | By Eric Barnett

Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones

Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones

A Facebook spokesperson told Ars Technica that Facebook's apps explicitly ask permission to access contacts and other logs, and that it's entirely optional, with users able to delete their contact data using a tool on Facebook's website via web browser.

It all boils down to Android permissions, and how Facebook's mobile app was taking advantage of an earlier versions of Android to collect a surprising amount of sensitive information.

Has Facebook been logging your calls and texts? According to Ars, Facebook's permission requests have been made more explicit in recent versions of certain apps, detailing that call logs and SMS records are included.

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Mark Zuckerberg's bad month of data-breach news - which snowballed after a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower was banned from Facebook for exposing the harvesting of 50 million profiles - just grew worse with a new discovery about Android phones. Those affected by the seemingly non-consensual data collection appear to be those who have opted to permit Facebook to suggest new friends based on phone numbers stored in the address book.

Users may have unknowingly given Facebook permission to see their call and message logs if they downloaded its mobile app with older versions of Android and granted it access to their contacts.

If you granted permission to read contacts during Facebook's installation on Android a few versions ago-specifically before Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)-that permission also granted Facebook access to call and message logs by default. Since you can't turn back time and prevent yourself from welcoming Facebook into your phone's contacts section, best you can do is delete your contacts' data and hope for the best. After purging my contact data, my contacts and calls were still in the archive I downloaded the next day-though this may be because the archive was still the same cache I had requested on Friday. Google changed this in a later Android API, but even then, Android applications written to earlier versions of the API could continue to harvest data by specifying an earlier Android SDK version.

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