Facebook has a strange defence for logging calls and texts
For years, privacy advocates have been shouting about Facebook, and for years the population as a whole – largely – didn’t care too much. People either accepted the transaction as worthwhile or didn’t reflect on the old truism that if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product. Whatever the reason, the ongoing Cambridge Analytica saga seems to have temporarily burst this sense of complacency, and people are suddenly giving the company a lot more scrutiny.
When you delete Facebook, the company provides you with a compressed file with everything it has on you – you can get it yourself easily enough, even without leaving the service. Details of how to get it are available here.
As well as every photo you’ve ever uploaded and details of any advert you’ve ever interacted with, some users are panicking that Facebook seems to have been tracking all of their calls and texts. Details of who you’ve called, when and for how long appear in an easily accessible list – even if you don’t use Facebook-owned WhatsApp or Messenger for texts or calls.
To be clear, I followed the same steps to see mine, and the page is entirely blank – and that’s not because nobody ever calls me. Rather, it’s because I have never given Facebook or Messenger access to my contacts or call logs within Android.
Facebook seemed to confirm this in a statement in response: “You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people’s call and SMS (text) history without their permission. This is not the case.
“Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. People have to expressly agree to use this feature. If, at any time, they no longer wish to use this feature they can turn it off.
I’m not sure if that’s quite as reassuring as the company thinks – if people find this behaviour creepy, then just telling them that they gave permission isn’t really much of a consolation. And while you can see the point in Messenger having information on who your most spoken-to contacts are, it’s hard to justify the logging of call duration and dates in this manner, you would have thought.
I imagine this is just tracking the data because it’s available, rather than anything more sinister, but it’s a tone deaf decision for anybody that has ever, say, spent any time at all with a living, breathing human.
“We never sell this data, and this feature does not collect the content of your text messages or calls,” the company adds. Does that make it better? Marginally, I guess, but if the company recognises it’s something that shouldn’t be bought and sold, perhaps it should ask itself why it was holding onto it in the first place.