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Facebook isn’t secretly logging your calls and SMS on Android

Published Mar 26th, 2018 6:50AM EDT
Facebook on Android
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Last week, some Facebook users discovered that the social network logged all calls and text messages made on their Android devices. The revelation came in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica reports that revealed how Facebook app developers were able to gather data about Facebook users without their explicit consent. A #DeleteFacebook movement soon emerged, and some of the folks who wanted to delete their Facebook accounts first downloaded the data Facebook had on them.

We’ve already told you that Facebook hasn’t been abusing its powers on Android, but the whole matter seems to have exploded over the weekend. Again, Facebook only collected that data because you allowed it to happen. It only happened on Android devices. Facebook has posted an update on its blogs about the matter.

Call and SMS history collection is an opt-in feature on Facebook Lite and Messenger, Facebook explains. This has always been the case, and if you discovered that Facebook has indeed collected that data, that’s because you agreed to it, even if you didn’t realize what it meant at the time.

The fact that it only happens on Android that’s not Facebook’s fault. The company has taken advantage of what Google’s mobile platform has to offer. On iPhone you can’t do that — and Google should probably make sure it can’t happen on Android either.

Why does Facebook need this data? Well, that’s where the bullshit explanations come in:

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.

I get that syncing contacts across your social networks may be helpful. But what do you need the call and SMS logs for?

Facebook says you can opt out at any time, providing instructions on how to do it. You can block contacts synchronization, calls and SMS logging, and both of these options if you so desire. Facebook says that once you’ve done it, the data is deleted from its servers.

Finally, Facebook says that even if it logs your calls and SMS history, it doesn’t have access to the actual contents of the calls or texts, and the logs data isn’t sold to third parties.

Facebook does admit that it uses information like “when a call or text was made or received,” without disclosing the purpose.

“You are always in control of the information you share with Facebook,” Facebook says at the end of the post. You aren’t always in control of what happens with that data, the Cambridge Analytica scandal just proved.

Information about syncing contacts to Messenger is available at this link, and here’s the Facebook Lite link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.