Is Facebook Logging Your Calls and Texts?

Category: Privacy , Social-Networking

An investigation in the British parliament has revealed that Facebook is logging the phone calls and text messages of some users. Facebook may also be tracking and recording your every move. Read on to find out what data Facebook is collecting about you, and how to stop it...

Facebook Knows Where You Were Last Summer

...and maybe who you're calling and texting. The UK Parliament doesn’t mess around. When MP Damian Collins wanted a cache of correspondence between Mark Zuckerberg and senior executives at Facebook, he sent a serjeant at arms (UK spelling) to the hotel room of the man who who had it. When the founder of software firm Six4Three refused to hand over the data he was escorted to Parliament where he was informed that continued reticence would mean fines and/or jail time.

Collins got the data. A few days later, his committee released it to the public and the fat hit the fire. The emails revealed internal discussions of some 2015 updates to the Facebook Lite and Facebook Messenger mobile apps that included logging of a user’s phone call and text message metadata – date, time, duration, and contact name and number, but not the actual content of the communication.

That new “feature” was so creepy it even prompted a warning from a Facebook product manager, Mike LeBeau; he called it “a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective...” and tried to postpone his own product to avoid having it linked to the logging feature. LeBeau’s product was a Bluetooth “beacon” that would tell a shopkeeper all about you when you entered his store, which is creepy in its own right.

Is Facebook spying on you?

The Facebook team knew that users would object to this logging; we know because the emails also reveal that the company took steps to slide it past users in Android’s app permissions dialog. Ordinarily, Android pops up a screen that tells you what permission an app is seeking and gives you the choice to “allow” or “deny” permission. Facebook found a way to replace that familiar dialogue with its own subtly biased one.

The scheme was implemented and apparently no one noticed this privacy invasion until March, 2018, when a young man named Dylan McKay tweeted, “Downloaded my Facebook data as a ZIP file. Somehow it has my entire call history with my partner’s mum…”

McKay also found “a historical record of every contact on my phone, including ones I no longer have… (and) metadata about every text message I’ve ever received or sent” even though he doesn’t use Messenger for texting!

"Nothing to See Here, Move Along…"

Facebook says the outage over this sneaky data grab is unwarranted. A spokesperson told Gizmodo, “We ran tests to understand whether the call/SMS log information people uploaded could improve suggestions in People You May Know. We didn’t launch the feature...” yet. The spokesperson said the logging feature could be rolled out to all users in the future. He could not say how many users were in the “tests,” or whether the tests are still ongoing.

If you want to know whether Facebook has been logging your calls and texts, you can follow these steps while logged into Facebook:

  • Go to the "Access Your Information" page
  • Scroll down to the "Information About You" section
  • Click on "Calls and Messages"
  • Click "Call Logs" or "Message Logs" to see if any records appear there.

If your calls and messages have been logged, you can click the "Delete All Call Logs" button, and then change your Messenger privacy settings to stop call/sms logging. There's a help page for that.

McKay has set up a survey form where users could say whether any of their phone data was logged and, if so, what kind. The form is no longer accepting new responses, but the results are available. It’s a pretty mixed bag.

Some 23.6% of 1,723 respondents reported that their phone data was logged. Contacts were lifted by Facebook in 88% of those cases; call metadata was logged in 32%; text and MMS messages in 31% and 22%, respectively.

Personally, I did not see any calls or SMS text messages logged by Facebook. But I did happen to notice there is a "Location History" section on the information page. You can click that to view a "history of precise locations received through your devices." And wow... Facebook knows every move I've made for the past four years. My trip to the grocery store yesterday is there. My visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in May 2016 is there. My stop at Costco in May 2015 is there. You can see where you've been, day by day, plotted on a map. Facebook says only I can see this data. But they don't say if they use that data for ad targeting, or if they might share it to comply with a request by law enforcement.

I learned that if you turn on Location Services on your device, Facebook will periodically log your location to your Location History, even if you leave the app. You might find this data useful. But if it freaks you out, there's a link to delete certain days, or all your location history data. There's also a setting in the Facebook app to turn off Location History.

You can also click the “download your information" link at the top of the "Access Your Information" pageif you'd like a copy of ALL the data the Facebook has collected. You'll get an email when it’s ready. Follow the instructions there to download the ZIP file and extract its contents to a temporary folder. Open the “index.html” file and you can explore each section.

Has Facebook been logging your calls and text messages? Have you checked your location history data and settings in Facebook? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 13 Dec 2018

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Most recent comments on "Is Facebook Logging Your Calls and Texts?"

Posted by:

13 Dec 2018

I don't have a FB account. If someone with FB calls me, is my info captured? Doesn't that violate my privacy rights, since I haven't waived them for FB.

Posted by:

Scott Brooks
13 Dec 2018

Hi Bob, I thought you might like to know that "Facebook says the outage" should probably be "Facebook says the outrage" - Scott

Posted by:

Scott Brooks
13 Dec 2018

Hi Bob, I thought you might like to know that "Facebook says the outage" should probably be "Facebook says the outrage" - Scott

Posted by:

Stephen Stein
13 Dec 2018

How to deal with Facebook:

Posted by:

Ken Heikkila
13 Dec 2018

Thx for the info. It looks to me like the worst of it only affects Android phones. I must already be 146% smarter because my location history was already turned off.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2018

I don't use Facebook or any other social media for that matter because of the problems that always are reported. Just not worth it in my estimation.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2018

i do use facebook very sparingly, and try to have as little as possible to do with microsoft, and google, and nothing to do with twitter...i also use walmart and avoid amazon, i really don't like big brother, nor anyone who supports them!!!

Posted by:

13 Dec 2018

I was on FB 2 times for short periods and did not like anything I saw about the ways they do things. The last time, they complained that my 15 character password, with a mix of upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols was insecure. When they accepted a new password of a four letter name (such as Bill or Mary with 2 numbers, I knew they did not really care. I reset the password, logged out, did something else for 15 minutes, logged back in and dumped FB for good. I won't be back. Recent revelations tell me I was right. I am not on any social media of any kind, and will not ever be. They want me to give up too much personal information in order to sign up. If I miss some "breaking news" about my 3rd cousin 5 times removed, so be it. The combination of social media and technology is going to be the means of our demise eventually. All of the so-called password protected accounts are vulnerable to hacking. My information has already been stolen 3 times when
health care providers had their computers hacked. These are large corporations.
Why should I put more personal information out there on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc., just to make it easier for the hackers to piece it all together?

Posted by:

13 Dec 2018

I am guessing this all applies to FB used on a phone since I could not FIND any of the settings mentioned on my computer which is the only place I use FB.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2018

Never use Facebook, never used Messenger, never will. I think Zuckerberg a despicable creature and have since the movie. The man and the company have the morals of an alley cat, a tom alley cat, which is to say none at all.

Posted by:

Oliver Fleming
13 Dec 2018

I must have done something right. I use FB heavily .However there is no information stored. HOORAY!

Posted by:

14 Dec 2018

I choose to have nothing to do with Facebook, because of the fact that they do lots of creepy - and even unethical things. Because of that, I never opened up any account with that social network. I wonder, though, about the phantom profiles they have of people that do not have Facebook accounts. Very spooky indeed!

Posted by:

14 Dec 2018

I use facebook some. I used to have the app, but have since opted to only use it in a browser whether on phone or laptop. I did download my data a while back and after a couple hours I tired of trying to scan through and figure out when I accessed Sergeant Pepper nightclub in Timbuk 2 or whatever. It's a morass that's deeper than any rabbit hole I've ever seen. Since I'm not using the app, it has no permissions to use my GPS which is seldom on, or any call or message data. I log on when I want to use it and log off when I'm done. Too bad they already have as much on me as they do, but at least going forward I'm clear.

Posted by:

14 Dec 2018

UK spelling is sergeant

Posted by:

15 Dec 2018

Fakebook? HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Keep using it suckers!

Posted by:

15 Dec 2018

Presumption of "ethical marketing" by naive consumers is probably what got us all here.
We can readily replace this company's namesake with that of (m)any other telecommunication or information service provider's brand name: Yet their misdeeds will continue to be equally repulsive, as long as we continue to rely on them.
[Re:"..fat hit the fire": who is the fat; who is the fire?]

Posted by:

15 Mar 2019

As for privacy on the internet, that is gone for the most part and people snoop on you constantly/ Legal=NO Illegal=YES but to catch them is another things, they hide behind VPN's and other hiding software and security. The Constitution of the USA says you have a right to Privacy along with rights in other areas, such as movement, religion etc. They have no right at all to take your information let alone use it without your specific permission. BUT we have a problem and that problem is called TRUMP. People now feel that it is OK to take things, check your calls, invade your privacy legal ornot, after all the President does it and yet it says, none are above the law. Since Trump has been in office we have lost a lot or mostly all privacy, how much money you make, where you live etc etc etc and it seems that Congress will not do a thing about it as they are actually afraid of Trump so it was reported on MSNBC and CNN and ABC. I hear it with my own ears... So people feel, if Trump can bypass the law how is it we can not, if trump can be violent and promote violence and hate so can we. We have never had it so good since Trump has been in office and he willfully goes around constitutional law or any law. The man is a menace and getting worse. Trump also helped bring in Net Neutrality and take our rights away there and the FCC did not stop it. I could go on forever on this as I studied Theology and Constitutional law and have a Doctoral degree in it. The people have no idea actually how dangerous this is as they are toooo willing to believe everything they hear from the White House. Privacy, why even speaking here I am sure is monitored. FaceBook has been crooked for years and they too are crooked and liars. I closed my account with that trash two years ago. Worse yet as does google, they share it with the Government. Sad days in the USA or is that RUSA now?

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