If you’re Facebook, then the last couple of weeks have not been good. On the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has again been caught up in another mini-scandal, this time getting caught collecting your phone and SMS history.
Over the weekend, it was found that Facebook has been collecting your phone and SMS history, a fact you can verify for yourself in a download of your Facebook archive. The issue as it is, was discovered by New Zealander Dylan McKay who tweeted about it :
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
The collection of data appears to only be for users on Android devices, which was backed up by Facebook who today released a statement. In the statement, Facebook said ‘Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android’.
Why are they doing it? Facebook said
This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about, and provide you with a better experience across Facebook.
Over at Ars Technica, Sean Gallagher has gone into a deeper explanation of the permissions, with the issue seemingly to be an earlier version of Google’s permissions API for apps targeting API levels pre-Android 4.1. Apps prior to API version 16, including Facebook were granted access to call and message logs by default. Facebook skirted the permission change by targeting an earlier API after the change, enabling them to still collect the call and SMS data.
Turning it off may not actually purge already collected data though, with Gallagher finding that his archive still retained the same call and SMS metadata.
Facebook has already got a fairly major security issue currently in play. Earlier this month, several outlets including The New York Times,The Guardian and The Observer, showed that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was able to scrape data from 50-million Facebook users against Facebook policies and then use that data to possibly influence the US election.
There’s currently a big #DeleteFacebook movement going on already based on the Cambridge Analytica issue, and now paired with call/sms history logging – even if ostensibly done with your permission – it’s not a good time to be Facebook.