Is Facebook Collecting Phone Data? The Site Has Revealed What Information They Collect From Users
Last week, news broke that Facebook had allowed data firm Cambridge Analytica to collect the information of 50 million users. This prompted a public apology from creator Mark Zuckerberg — but it seems like it was far from the end of things, though: Facebook has admitted that they collect phone data from Android users who have opted-in to share their phone contact list with the site's Messenger app. Bustle has reached out to Facebook for comment regarding this news, but has not yet heard back.
On Sunday, Facebook acknowledged that they have been collecting the call and text history of users with Android phones. However, they denied in a Newsroom post that they were collecting any information without users' permission, citing the fact that, when downloading and opening the Messenger app, Android users were asked whether or not they wanted to "opt-in" to sharing their contacts.
Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about, and provides you with a better experience across Facebook. People have to expressly agree to use this feature. If, at any time, they no longer wish to use this feature they can turn it off in settings, or here for Facebook Lite users, and all previously shared call and text history shared via that app is deleted. While we receive certain permissions from Android, uploading this information has always been opt-in only.
Additionally, the statement added, "When this feature is enabled, uploading your contacts also allows us to use information like when a call or text was made or received. This feature does not collect the content of your calls or text messages. Your information is securely stored and we do not sell this information to third parties. You are always in control of the information you share with Facebook."
While the social media platform says they collected call and text information with the permission of users, many users are noting on Twitter that the opt-in process for data collection — agreeing to share your phone's contact list with the Messenger app — did not clearly communicate the extent of said data being collected.
Facebook explained in their Newsroom post that they use this data "to improve people's experience across Facebook," and that it's utilized it to help users connect with other people they may know. A spokeswoman told the Associated Press that "Facebook uses the information to rank contacts in Messenger so they are easier to find, and to suggest people to call."
Also in their official statement, Facebook added that the data does not include the content of calls or texts collected:
"We never sell this data, and this feature does not collect the content of your text messages or calls. When this feature is enabled, uploading your contacts also allows us to use information like when a call or text was made or received. This feature does not collect the content of your calls or text messages. Your information is securely stored and we do not sell this information to third parties. You are always in control of the information you share with Facebook."
If you want to turn this feature off, Facebook explains how, saying that "If, at any point, you no longer wish to continuously upload this information, you can easily turn this feature off in your settings. You can also turn off continuous call and text history logging while keeping contact uploading enabled." The statement tells users to go to this contacts page to see which contacts you have uploaded from Messenger so that they can then delete all of that information uploaded from the app.