Developer Dylan Mackey discovered the history of calls and SMS, when he unloaded from a special Facebook page archive of data collected by social networks. Out of curiosity, he studied the files and found there information about their calls and messages, up to the duration of the conversation and the names of subscribers. This McKay wrote on Twitter.
Soon other users of Facebook reported on similar cases on Twitter. Ars Technica editor Sean Gallagher checked the information and found that the company was collecting data on his calls and SMS in 2015 and 2016 when he used smartphones on Android.
In a conversation with Ars Technica, Facebook representatives stated that they consider the collection of such data a normal practice and explained that it is needed to improve the system of recommendations.
The most important thing in applications and services that help you establish connections is to make the process of finding people easier. Therefore, the first time you enter an instant messenger or social network application from your phone is [getting access to the call log and SMS] a common practice that starts with downloading contacts.
The company noted that access to contacts is optional and the application requests a separate permission for this. Users can delete imported contacts using a tool available through the Web version of Facebook.
As noted in Ars Technica, the social network uses call and contact data to improve the friend recommendation algorithm. In the latest versions of the Messenger application on Android, during installation, it requests data for calls and SMS separately. However, even if users now refuse to provide them, Facebook could collect their information earlier when Android processed the permissions differently.
In earlier versions of Android, for example, Android 4.1, when Facebook was given access to the contact list, it also automatically received permission to collect data about calls and messages. Later, the Android API redesigned the permissions request structure, but applications can still bypass them if they are written for earlier versions of the API and have already been published on Google Play.
Apparently, Google has disabled the ability to use the old version of the API only in October 2017: this month is the date of the last recorded calls in user files. Editor Ars Technica Sean Gallagher noted that although the company says about the possibility to delete this data, in fact, it is possible to erase only contacts themselves, and not information about calls and messages.
Owners of iOS devices did not find records of calls and messages in Facebook files. Apple allows some specialized applications to access such data in some cases: to block spam or messages, such programs should be specifically activated almost like third-party keyboards. The Verge publication noted that most iOS applications do not have access to the call log or SMS messages, and the Facebook application on iOS can not collect such data.
On March 19, it became known that Cambridge Analytica was able to circumvent Facebook’s rules to obtain the data of 50 million users who allegedly used to improve Trump’s advertising campaigns. Two days after this, the social network lost more than $ 50 billion of capitalization due to the scandal, and many entrepreneurs and the media staged a boycott of Zuckerberg and called for their retirement from Facebook.