Facebook Phone-Scraping Takes Users by Surprise | Social Networking

By John P. Mello Jr.

Mar 27, 2018 7:00 AM PT

Facebook on Sunday confirmed that its Messenger and Lite apps for Android smartphones routinely accumulate name and textual content histories.

The name and textual content historical past logging are opt-in options for individuals utilizing Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android units, the company mentioned in a submit.

The characteristic is designed to assist customers keep related, and it improves the Facebook expertise, based on the company.

The Messenger characteristic might be turned off at any time by means of the app’s settings. In Facebook Lite, the characteristic might be deactivated by turning off the Continuous Contacts Upload setting.

When these changes are made to the applications, all beforehand shared name and textual content historical past is deleted, Facebook mentioned.

The characteristic doesn’t accumulate the content material of calls or textual content messages, Facebook addes, assuring customers that their info is saved securely and that it’s not offered to 3rd events.

Surprised Users

While the accumulating of name and textual content info has been occurring for years — it was launched into Messenger in 2015 — discovery of the characteristic stunned some customers and raised many hackles.

A Twitter consumer with the deal with “Learn Somali” seen monitoring solely in reference to a go to to Somalia.

McKay responded that he’d by no means left New Zealand.

Facebook recorded all of her telephone’s contacts, calls and texts from 2015 to 2016, tweeted Natalie Schluter, an affiliate professor on the University of Copenhagen.

Author Emma Kennedy additionally was stunned by what she found when she downloaded the trove of information Facebook had on her.

Opaque Transparency

While it seems that Facebook believes it has been up entrance with what its Messenger and Lite apps do, not everybody agrees.

Facebook wasn’t sufficiently clear about what it was doing with its apps if even builders and tech-oriented customers had been stunned, noticed Joseph W. Jerome, coverage counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“Part of the challenge is that well-designed transparency is really hard,” he instructed TechNewsWorld. “As the law understands it, Facebook did get users to opt in to this feature,” he mentioned, “but ‘Turn On’ is bolded and the default choice for users.”

The “Not Now” selection for turning off the characteristic is grayed out, so it seems prefer it’s not an accessible possibility.

Thin Excuse

“Technically, Facebook is accurate that users opted in to this, but in the age of Russian meddling and Cambridge Analytica, it’s no excuse in users’ minds,” mentioned Karen North, director of the
digital social media program on the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“Even the opt-in excuse is a thin one, given how the opt-in was phrased,” she instructed TechNewsWorld. “It was misleading.”

However, it is probably that Facebook’s intentions weren’t sinister, North added.

“They do it to curate an experience that will engage us,” she mentioned, “and to target us, sell ads and make money.”

Facebook gives controls for customers involved about their privateness, however utilizing them might be an journey.

“You might as well quit your job and spend all your time trying to stay on top of the privacy changes that Mark Zuckerberg makes,” quipped John Carroll, a mass communications professor at Boston University.

“Facebook is notorious for turning their privacy settings into a moving target,” he instructed TechNewsWorld. “It’s a monumental task to constantly monitor your privacy settings, not only on Facebook, but all over the Web.”

FTC Opens Probe

The phone-scraping revelations broke as full-page Facebook adverts ran in a number of Sunday papers within the United Kingdom and United States, apologizing for having allowed Cambridge Analytica to make use of the private information of some 50 million customers for political functions.

“This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” CEO Zuckerberg says within the advert. “We’re now taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission added extra stress on Monday.

“The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook,” mentioned Tom Pahl, performing director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”

Facebook ran afoul of the FTC in 2011 over sharing and publicizing members’ info after assuring them they may hold it personal. It settled that case with the fee.

“This is more evidence that the FTC should have enforced its consent orders,” Marc Rotenberg, government director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, instructed TechNewsWorld. “Users can’t be expected to monitor every change in a company’s business practices.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus embrace cybersecurity, IT points, privateness, e-commerce, social media, synthetic intelligence, huge information and client electronics. He has written and edited for quite a few publications, together with the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.

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