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Facebook admits collecting phone calls and texts from people's phones, but claims it had consent

The site published a 'fact check', but didn't dispute that it had been collecting people's phone call and text history

Andrew Griffin
Monday 26 March 2018 11:05 BST
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Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica: 'I'm really sorry'

Facebook has made clear that it harvests data on people's phone calls and text messages.

But it says that people consented to having that information collected, and that it was only used to "provide you with a better experience across Facebook".

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many have looked into the data that is being collected by Facebook, which can be done by downloading the company's file on you from its website. As they did so, some users picked through the data and found something shocking: that it contained a long list of the messages they had sent and phone calls they had made, in some cases going back years.

Facebook has now confirmed that the data is being collected. But it has disputed much of the reporting and says that the feature isn't being used for spying, only to learn more about its users.

The company called its response to the allegations a "fact check". It suggested they were wrong in a number of ways.

"You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people’s call and SMS (text) history without their permission," the response read. "This is not the case."

It then went on to detail how people had given their consent to the collection. It shared a screenshot of the page where people gave their permission – clicking through on a button that made clear their data would be "continuously uploaded".

The feature can be turned off in settings, and people will still be able to use the app as before. Users can also keep contact uploading – which allows Messenger to know who you might want to chat to – while getting rid of the collection of phone calls and text messages histories, from the same page.

It also attempted to address a number of other things it claimed had been inaccurately reported. The data won't be sold and what is actually said inside of a call or a text message will not be collected by Facebook, it said.

"When this feature is enabled, uploading your contacts also allows us to use information like when a call or text was made or received," the explanation reads. "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."

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