Facebook Says You Gave it Permission to Scrape Call Logs, so Nerr

By Tom Pritchard on at

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, people are starting to realise that Facebook is collecting information on them, even though it's been pretty openly doing that for years - all in the name of personalised adverts. It took a step further when people noticed Facebook had more information than they realised, including pretty almost complete logs of users' calls and texts (via Ars Technica).

Apparently this was only an issue on Android devices, which The Verge attributes to Apple's stricter privacy controls. It seems only specialist apps are allowed to access call and text data on iOS devices, and even then there are limits on how much access they have. Plus those apps have to be enabled in a similar way to third-party keyboards, which means no accidentally giving everything away when you hit the wrong button.

Facebook seems to think it's in the clear, though, because users willingly handed over this information when they installed the Messenger or Messenger Lite apps. When you sign up for the app it asks whether you want to be able to add your existing contacts to Messenger, and as you can see it does all of this in the name of convenience:

So anyone who opts to have that turned on will end up uploading all of that data to Facebook who snoop around, analyse it, and do whatever they see fit with anything it finds. Or at least they can within the bounds of data protection laws.

This isn't exactly news, and anyone who's paid attention to this sort of thing over the past decade or so will know that anything you post online suddenly stops being private information. You can't even make the case that users weren't warned because the opt-in screen literally says your call and text history will be continuously uploaded.

That said, Ars Technica points out that the opt-in feature wasn't actually available until 2016, when Facebook received some flack for having this feature switched on by default. It also notes that Messenger first got the chance to access call and text data by default before the release of Android JellyBean (4.1), and even after Google changed the way app permissions were granted apps were still able to bypass the changes by specifying an older version of the Android SDK.

Or they could until last October, when Google deprecated Android 4.0. Funnily enough some users noted that this coincided with the last instance of their call and text data being logged.

Facebook adamantly says that it doesn't sell this data, nor does it collect any information about the contents of your calls and texts. You could ask why Facebook needs this information, but that answer is obvious. Data is big business, particularly when adverts are concerned, and Facebook makes large sums of money selling adverts to users. The more it knows about you, the better it is at showing you ads that you care about - which in turn is more likely to bring in extra cash.

But now we have to ask the question of who is to blame here. The users who handed over this information ignorant of what they were doing at the time, or Facebook who seemingly tried to hide the permission it required as something else? [Ars Technica via The Next Web]


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