Is Facebook Logging Your Calls and Texts?
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 13 Dec 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Facebook Logging Your Calls and Texts? (Posted: 13 Dec 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved