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Facebook Acknowledges It Has Been Keeping Records of Android Users' Calls, Texts (slate.com) 97

Last week, a user found that Facebook had a record of the date, time, duration, and recipient of calls he had made from the past few years. A couple days later, Ars Technica published an account of several others -- all Android users -- who found similar records. Now, Slate Magazine is reporting that Facebook has acknowledged that it was collecting and storing these logs, "attributing it to an opt-in feature for those using Messenger or Facebook Lite on an Android device." The company did however deny that it was collecting call or text history without a user's permission. From the report: "This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about, and provides you with a better experience across Facebook," the company said in a post Sunday. "People have to expressly agree to use this feature. We introduced this feature for Android users a couple of years ago. Contact importers are fairly common among social apps and services as a way to more easily find the people you want to connect with."

Ars Technica refuted their claim that everyone knowingly opted in. Instead, Ars Technica's Sean Gallagher claimed, that opt-in was the default setting and users were not separately alerted to it. Nor did Facebook ever say publicly that it was collecting that information. "Facebook says that the company keeps the data secure and does not sell it to third parties," Gallagher wrote. "But the post doesn't address why it would be necessary to retain not just the numbers of contacts from phone calls and SMS messages, but the date, time, and length of those calls for years."

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Facebook Acknowledges It Has Been Keeping Records of Android Users' Calls, Texts

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  • Of course it has (Score:5, Insightful)

    by registrations_suck ( 1075251 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @07:52PM (#56331015)

    These companies every piece of information about you that they can. That's their business model. How can anyone be surprised at things like this?

    • Re:Of course it has (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @08:15PM (#56331137)

      People that work in technology routinely skip the EULA, and those are the people that know better.

      If those people don't read the fine-print, do you expect any average nontechnical person to read through the fine-print when they're just trying to install an app on their phone to make it easier to use than the web version?

      This kind of crap is why I didn't sign-up for Facebook to start with. They might not be breaking the letter of the law, but to my view they appear to be fundamentally dishonest.

      • Re:Of course it has (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @10:21PM (#56331627)

        People all over the spectrum skip the EULA because they're usually:

        1) Written in legalese
        2) 967 pages long
        3) In size 8 font
        4) Changes almost monthly

        AND

        Exactly three sentences worth of information that are of any importance are buried so damn deep in the typical EULA, that it's akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

        IMO, if they want it to be binding, they need to remove the important stuff from the jungle of bullshit they intentionally hide it in and let people know exactly what it is they're getting themselves into. The average person should not require a Law Degree just to read and fully understand a damn EULA.

        • Re:Of course it has (Score:5, Informative)

          by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @04:44AM (#56332513)

          I've seen quite a few short, informative, clear EULAs, but they're exclusive to indie groups/solo developers.
          Any EULA coming from a behemoth company is unreadable.

          • This is all generally right, but in this specific case their EULA talking about uploading of the information was literally 41 words long forcing you to click "Turn On" or "Not Now" (45 words if you include reading the text on the buttons)

            You people make waaay too many excuses for users.

            • I was talking about EULAs in general, I admit I don't know what the EULA was in this particular case.

        • 1) It's about the most basic language there is.
          2) It's 41 words long.
          3) It's in clear font and takes up 1/3rd of your phone's screen.
          4) Hasn't changed since it was rolled out.

          Yes EULAs are stupid, but as this Facebook case proves the users are many orders of magnitude stupider.

        • 4) Changes almost monthly

          This is probably the most important point. By agreeing to one EULA, you agree to any arbitrary changes that can be made at any time. That shouldn't be legal, but as a country we've been reluctant to regulate what can and cannot be included in a contract. As you point out, one shouldn't need a law degree to understand the contractual agreement for a basic piece of software.

          I think that there should be legislation that limits what can be in an EULA, as well as preventing any sort of language that refers to th

    • To their demise.... Its shouldn't take long.
  • When a company, like Facebook, is in an argument with its users, that the users DID know something, in other words, that the users were wrong, its gotten bad. When a company that seems to basically own their users, as they catalog their users every thought and action, concessions about them being respectful and honest about privacy are important. Not only does it look like Facebook own their users, they are telling them to check themselves.

    --
    "Without Galileo, we wouldn't have gone to the moon" - NASA Scient

    • It may have changed but when I set it up on my phone last year I specifically remember being asked, and said no. Checked again now and it's still off in both FB and Messenger. Maybe the issue is that monitoring isn't a clear consequence of continuous contact synching. That users didn't read a pop-up and just clicked ok isn't exactly far fetched though.
      • That's because it's a recent change. In the past, FB app asks for all the rights it can get, and on Androids, it's a yes or no to running the app. If you said yes, you just gave it all the permissions it asked for.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @08:05PM (#56331079) Homepage Journal

    and this is partially why, along with raping my battery.

    Can't tell me wanting to collect this data isn't part of why they try to strong-arm you into using their apps by intentionally cutting down on what they'll allow you to do with a mobile browser.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @08:23PM (#56331153)
      I had it for about 6 months in 2011, before tracking battery drain to it. I think it has probably improved since then, but I got used to checking facebook via the web page on my own terms, rather than getting spammed with notifications all day. Then I noticed them trying to push me back to the app, first by taking Messaging away from the mobile web interface, and more recently by popping up messages about my friends posting time-limited stories that you need the app to view. When they started that tactic, I took it as a sign that the app was doing something nefarious, so it just made me more determined to avoid it.
    • I have a Samsung Galaxy S*+ for work and it is impossible to remove Facebook. Samsung say it is required for VR. That's a ridiculous lie, and I don't want VR anyway. I don't wan't vulgar posts from my crazy niece to appear on the screen of my work device

      Even after I disabled (but not removed) Facebook I kept getting notifications, until I disabled that too. Lord knows if FB are tracking me despite my actions

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      I never downloaded, installed, and used its app!

  • never trusted social media.
    If they had to, PRISM should have been the point to stop and remove all accounts.
    Now years later again the reality of what social media as an ad company and a gov helper can do is understood.
    Find a better way to be online that does not have your data kept by a big band for years.
    Keep your data safe from US party politics and big brand censorship.

    Just say no to social media.
  • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @08:12PM (#56331121)

    A "default opt-in" is known as an "opt-out" to everyone but shills (or marketing, more or less the same thing).

    • It's an opt nothing. You have to click Turn On or Turn Off in the 3rd window presented to you order to actually start Facebook the first time.
      Opt In or Opt Out implies there's some hidden default that I need to go in and change.

      Calling what Facebook is doing Opt-Out really waters down what should be actual anger towards actual nefarious opt-out cases.

      • Has anyone tested to verify if FB has continued their older practice of hoovering up all the data at install time prior to the user being able to make any choices? I had honeypot contacts with email accounts in my iphone 4. They received 'join FB' emails after installing the FB app and disabling all the data collection before first use. I've assumed FB is just taking everything no matter what they say since then.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    that people, knowing just how bad this and similar companies are, continue to use the products. You are the product when you use Facebook, et al. Unless you are paying for a service, you are the product. I have never has a social media account and never will. I saw the writing on the wall even before they became the behemoths they are today. As a long time IT security practitioner, I'm staggered that when year after year of these "revelations", no one begs off. No one is suddenly awakened. I happily pay for

    • Network effect. All of the people I need to communicate with are using FB, many exclusively.

      That doesn't mean I need to give FB so much info though, nor that I can't keep feeding it disinformation. That's the neat thing about a compulsive data hoover - you can keep feeding wrong info into it.
    • that people, knowing just how bad this and similar companies are, continue to use the products

      This reminds me of the song The Snake [youtube.com]. Note the last verse:

      "I saved you", cried the woman
      "and you've bit me even , why?"
      You know your bite is posionous and now I'm gonna die"
      "Oh shut up, silly woman", said the reptile with a grin,
      "You knew damned well I was a snake before you took me in".

  • Got a new phone... cant uninstall FB bloat... WTF. Rooting a phone should not validate the warranty...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is why I only buy phones and use carriers that allow full unlocking right out of the box ("full" as in carrier unlock and bootloader unlock). I also make sure LineageOS runs on it.

      Motorola phones and T-Mobile carrier are particularly good about this so that's usually what I go with.

    • Given that there are so many Android phones out there, how hard was it to check in advance that the phone didn't include unwanted apps, like Facebook? I have had a number of Android phones over time - a Mot X, an HTC, and on the tablet front, 3 Verizon Ellipsis tablets. None of them ever had Facebook, and the one that did, HTC, I had no problems deleting the app

  • by EzInKy ( 115248 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @09:50PM (#56331499)

    But Facebook doesn't just track the idiots, it tracks everybody those idiots interract with whether they are a Facebook user or not. That is exactly what the government needs to crack down on and crack down hard.

    • by tgeek ( 941867 )

      But Facebook doesn't just track the idiots, it tracks everybody those idiots interract with whether they are a Facebook user or not. That is exactly what the government needs to crack down on and crack down hard.

      So true. Actual incident that happened about a year ago: I was sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon. I get a call on my work cellphone -- I keep a separate personal cellphone and never mix the two: never work stuff on the personal and vice versa. The call is from somebody at work from a completely different department who I never have dealt with before. Ordinary phone call - we talk a few minutes and I resolve an issue he was having. The strange thing is, the very next day that same person popped up a

      • I'm surprised you weren't recommended that friend based on location alone. I was working at a plant in Germany for 2 weeks and one of the guys I was with who we never shared any contact details with had me as a suggested friend on his Facebook when he was using it at lunch. Based only on the fact that we were both in the same area a lot.

        • This is the creepiest part of it all. On Instragram (owned by Facebook) I recently got a suggestion to follow my ex-father-in-law. It specifically used the language "follow your friend ". I've NEVER given Instagram permission to look in my contact list, but it regularly suggests I follow people and explicitly states they are in my contacts . I deleted my FB account years before I started using Instagram, and have never installed FB on my current phone, yet here we are.

          I can imagine an situation where a

        • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
          Yeah, facebook is creepy like that.
      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        Check out http://mewe.com./ [mewe.com.] It looks like a good solution to recommend where people insist on using facebook, like pto's, sports groups, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These are written by gobs of lawyers over a long time span with much thought, and you are supposed to breeze thru these in seconds and accept?

    "...a better experience across Facebook" ???

    These are records the Stasi would get wet dreams over. The fact it is obviously obscured shows nefarious intent.
    Dump and erase anything Facebook. These people are evil.

  • and realize they aren't the customer of companies like this... they are the product.
  • Disputed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Ars Technica refuted their claim that everyone knowingly opted in.

    Disputed, not refuted. Refuted means to prove wrong. It is a very useful and specific word. Why dilute it just to sound "fancy" when there already is a word that means *exactly* what is intended?

  • by shilly ( 142940 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @02:48AM (#56332259)

    Surely it's noteworthy that FB was only able to behave this badly on the Android platform. Whether it was for technical or policy reasons, it wasn't possible on iOS.

    • Surely it's noteworthy that FB was only able to behave this badly on the Android platform. Whether it was for technical or policy reasons, it wasn't possible on iOS.

      Technical. Facebook doesn't give a shit about "Policy".

      • by shilly ( 142940 )

        Agreed, FB certainly doesn't. But Apple can enforce policy by controlling what's allowed on the App Store. Maybe that's a mix of technical and policy?

  • Doesn't it only have the ability to do this for the people that gave it permission to access SMS on their device? Seems kind of click-baity.
  • I waited a long time to get my first mobile phone. The first thing I looked for was a security click-box on my address book "just tell every app. that tries to access this to fuck off" unless I tell Android at the system level otherwise (there would be no possible way for the application to prompt for or request this change).

    404.

    My relationship with Android started off sketchy, and only went downhill from there.

    I did eventually find a way: install no apps at all.

    So now it's just a shiny phone with a Google

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