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On the same day Facebook bought ads in US and British newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social media site faced new questions about collecting phone numbers and text messages from Android devices.

Ars Technica reported Saturday that some Facebook users had discovered years' worth of phone call metadata in their downloadable Facebook data file. When the feature is enabled, the feature allows Facebook to see when a call or text was sent or received, the company said.

While recent versions of Messenger and Facebook Lite on Android devices have made specific requests for access to call and SMS logs - part of the social network's efforts to improve its friend recommendation algorithm - Facebook may have already been able to access the data for years.

Users may have unknowingly given Facebook permission to see their call and message logs if they downloaded its mobile app with older versions of Android and granted it access to their contacts.


This past week, a New Zealand man was looking through the data Facebook had collected from him in an archive he had pulled down from the social networking site. Prior to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Facebook's Android app asked for contacts permission, and if granted, it also allowed access to call and message data automatically.

In a statement given to Ars Technica, Facebook pointed out that the call log was "a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts". What's more, users can delete contact data from their profiles using a tool that is accessible on a web browser. Google changed this in a later Android API, but even then, Android applications written to earlier versions of the API could continue to harvest data by specifying an earlier Android SDK version.

Facebook specified that it does not collect the content of calls or text messages and information is securely stored. Really, this isn't so much a shocking revelation as a reminder that many people have explicitly granted permission to Facebook and its apps without realizing what data they were offering up in the process.


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