Amidst the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is now being accused of having recorded calls and text data from Android phone owners against their will. This was not the case.
Facebook is under fire. The Cambridge Analytica story is a real scandal. Mark Zuckerberg himself has apologized for “some mistakes.” All Fair. But now, it looks like there may be some evidence which showcases misconduct from the leading social network.
This story began when a Twitter user, Dylan McKay, shared his surprise to find a record of his calls and SMS data when downloading his Facebook archive. Following the revelations relating to Cambridge Analytics, McKay was simply curious to know what data Facebook had on him.
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
It did not take much before Internet caught fire and users were quick to condemn Facebook for recording calls and SMS data without their permission. Many users confirmed McKay’s story and it turned out to be a widespread issue among Android users. iPhone users were not alarmed at this stage.
Yes, Facebook had collected data, but they never did so without the user’s permission, known as an opt-in process.
The story became so big, it forced an official Facebook Fact check response:
[quote]You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people’s call and SMS (text) history without their permission. This is not the case.[/quote]
So what happened? The truth is that users voluntarily opted-in to share their calls and SMS data when they first logged in on Messenger from their Android device.
According to Facebook, users were, at any point, able to turn off all or parts of the feature. That would have immediately stopped Facebook from collecting any user’s call and text history.
Facebook also explained that the feature never collected the content of users’ calls or texts messages. It merely recorded contextual data such as date and time, call duration, and whether a call was missed, received or declined.
All in all, Facebook did nothing wrong here. They never acted without users’ permission. It is true that the opt-in process was cleverly crafted so that people would only focus on the benefits (being able to text their contacts through Messenger) rather than the fine prints, which allowed Facebook to collect their data. But it was not foul play.
And just to be clear, even if you have given Facebook’s access to your calls and texts history, the company was never able to access the content of those.
Certainly, the timing of the revelation was not great PR for the company.
You can go to this page to see which contacts’ information you have shared with Facebook.