As if Facebook's current situation couldn't get any worse. Aside from hiding from the public the fact that Cambridge Analytica took hold of a treasure trove of user data from Facebook accounts sans their permission, new scathing discoveries now show that the company was collecting other stuff as well.
Facebook has been gathering call records and SMS data from Android devices for years. Several users on Twitter noticed this after acquiring their downloadable Facebook data record. Many users have been terrified of what Facebook might have on them amid the Cambridge Analytics scandal, pushing them to download their profile data. The results? It appears Facebook has been collecting types of data that it shouldn't.
Facebook Knows About Your Texts And Phone Calls
Twitter user Mat Johnson says his Facebook history record contains "every single phone cellphone call and text I made for about a year," and another Twitter user, Dylan McKay, says his file contains the full call logs between him and his partner's mother. Others are finding similar patterns, wherein only close relatives are the only people tracked.
As Ars Technica reports, installing Facebook on Android requires these permissions: access to contacts, SMS, and calls. Facebook apparently needs this information to enhance the algorithm in charge of recommending which friends to add. The company also leverages that data to better determine which from a user's contacts are friends and which are merely colleagues.
Facebook collects those data via its stand-alone messaging platform, Messenger. Some users have this app set up as their default SMS client instead of something like, say, the stock Android Messages app.
Ars Technica stresses that Facebook has been practicing this data collection for years now. Facebook has addressed this issue, but it seems to suggest that data collection is a normal aspect of apps that let a user upload contacts.
iOS users seem to be unaffected.
Facebook, in a blog post on March 25, laid down its data collection practices and clarified that the feature is merely optional. However, the company failed to say exactly why it was gathering data on users and what it was being used for.
Suffice it to say that Facebook is in probably the worst pickle any social media company has ever been in. There's now even a movement called #DeleteFacebook that's encouraging users to get rid of their account so as to prevent it from collecting even more data. The company recently ran full-page apology ads in several high-profile newspapers, but it's not clear whether those will assuage public unrest.