In light of Facebook’s recent privacy scandal with Cambridge Analyitca, several users have downloaded all the data gathered by the platform to see whether or not their personal information was compromised. Some users were shocked by what they discovered.
As pointed out by Ars Technica, the social networking site has been logging years of contact names, telephone numbers, call lengths, and text messages from those who use Android devices. Facebook responded to the findings Sunday, stating all the aforementioned data was collected to improve its friend recommendation algorithm and had only collected the information from users who opt-in to allow it. Android users are asked to share the data after they install Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite.
“The most important part of apps and services that help you make connections is to make it easy to find the people you want to connect with,” a Facebook spokesperson told Ars. “So, 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.”
Facebook also claimed that it does not record call or text conversations, nor does it sell the collected data. At this time, it doesn’t appear that iPhone users have been affected.
Though Android users are presented with an opt-in screen upon downloading the apps, the message doesn’t specific what kind of data is being collected; it simply reads: “this lets friends find each other on Facebook and helps us create a better experience for everyone.”
In an effort to increase transparency, Facebook published a “fact check” blog post Sunday in which they attempted to explain the call and SMS logs. They also provided instructions on how to enable the feature.
“For Messenger, you can either turn it on, choose ‘learn more’ or ‘not now’. On Facebook Lite, the options are to turn it on or ‘skip’,” Facebook wrote. “If you chose to turn this feature on, we will begin to continuously log this information, which can be downloaded at any time using the Download Your Information tool.”
Needless to say, things aren’t looking too good for the website right now. Just last week, Facebook and its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg faced severe backlash after it was reported that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, had gained access to personal information on more than 50 million Facebook users.
And if the #DeleteFacebook hashtag wasn’t bad enough, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed Monday it was investigating the platform’s data practices.
The announcement arrived shortly after Zuckerberg issued an apology on full-page newspaper ads.
“This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’re now taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”