Facebook’s bad press continues following news that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced their non-public investigation of the social media giant. Yesterday, the FTC confirmed that they would be launching an investigation after it was reported that Facebook had been recording the call logs and text messages of millions of Android users.
Facebook has been walking on eggshells since the news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal surfaced a couple weeks ago. The announcement of the FTC’s investigation regarding users’ security and privacy has added to their recent troubles. Subsequently, Facebook’s shares have declined again. According to NBCNews, their shares dropped by 2.5% yesterday.
Android mobile users have been coming forward with screenshots of data that Facebook has been recording for years. They have gathered a considerable amount of private information, including contact names, length of calls, and phone numbers. This discovery has been alarming to users. They believe the collection of such personal information to be an invasion of their privacy.
The discovery was made by several users who shared their findings with Ars Technica, an online news website.
According to Ars Technica, Facebook has been compiling users’ phone data through the Android Messenger app. As stated by Ars Technica, Facebook maintains that the data has been saved in order to “improve its friend recommendation algorithm” and to differentiate personal relationships from business exchanges. They expressed that the reasoning for accessing and continuously updating users’ contacts is to be able to connect them with the people they are closest to.
While it is unclear how many users are affected, NBCnews reported that there are over 1.2 billon users on the Facebook Messenger app, and over 80% of them use Android phones. Iphone users’ data does not appear to have been recorded.
Facebook has an opt-in to upload contacts, however, Ars Technica also stated that the opt-in was actually a default setting in the application. Users were never explicitly notified that their data would be collected.
Facebook has also claimed that it is not uncommon for apps to access your call log and messages if you upload your contacts on the interface. A spokesperson for Facebook stated; “the first time you sign in on your phone to a messaging or social app, it’s a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts.” Contrary to their statement, experts have declared that it is not normal for app’s to keep their users’ call logs. Jason Hong, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in app privacy, said that it is unusual for apps to collect this sort of user data given that “the vast majority of them have no clear purpose in doing so”.
On Sunday, Facebook took to their blog to shed light on the situation. Although they explained that users need to opt-in to the feature in order to gain access to their contact information, individuals are still waiting for Facebook to address why they have been holding on to users’ data.
Facebook upholds that they never sell users’ data to third parties and they hold privacy and security in the highest regard. Nevertheless, with the launch of the FTC investigation and Facebook’s recent bad press, these findings are concerning to Facebook users.