Some Android users are finding out that Facebook has been saving their call and text message logs for years. According to a report from Ars Technica, the social media giant’s virtual treasure trove of call and SMS data from Android users goes back years and ended in late 2017.
The news that Facebook had been scraping Android call and text data comes in the wake of the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which has led to the hashtag “DeleteFacebook” movement. Consequently, many Facebook users have begun downloading their data archives from the social media platform — and become shocked to discover the extent of Facebook’s data collection capabilities.
Many Android users have posted screenshots of their Facebook zip files, containing very detailed phone and text message logs, including dates, call recipients, contact numbers, call lengths, and more.
Last week, programmer Dylan McKay was going through the data archive he pulled from Facebook when he discovered that the social media platform had collected about two years’ worth of phone call data from his Android device. He posted screenshots of his — and his grandmother’s — Facebook data dumps on Twitter. The post immediately went viral, with many commenting that they experienced the same.
Ars Technica writer Sean Gallagher picked up the story and confirmed that his own Facebook data archive contained call, SMS, and MMS metadata from an Android device he used in 2015 and 2016. Mashable writer Adam Rosenberg noted that the issue seems limited to Android devices and only when specific permissions were granted. Rosenberg, an Android user, also downloaded his Facebook data, but found no record of his calls.
The devices affected seem to be pre-Jelly Bean (4.1) versions of Android. These older versions allowed the Facebook app access to contacts, as well as call and text message logs. More recent Android versions required users to allow access to each of these separately. However, the update didn’t affect apps (such as Facebook) that had already been granted permission to access call and text data. It wasn’t until October, 2017, that Google officially asked app developers to stop using Android 4.0 API.
As news that it had been collecting call and text metadata from Android users surfaced, Facebook issued a “fact check” statement in which it explained that logging call and text history is an opt-in feature in Facebook Lite and Messenger on Android. The company stressed that it does not collect call data on the sly and that it never sells the data. Ars Technica notes that the statement contradicts details it found from its own investigation of Facebook data downloads, as well as the testimonies of Android users who provided their own data.