Facebook Sued for Collecting Users' Private Calls and Texts

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Days after Facebook acknowledged that it had collected the text and call histories of certain Android device users in the years since 2015, a group of plaintiffs joined forces in an attempt to launch a class-action lawsuit against the social media company.

The tech giant has been under increased scrutiny since reports surfaced that tens of millions of users were believed to have had their personal data leaked to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that used the information to assist then-candidate Donald Trump ahead of his successful 2016 presidential bid.

Late last week, new allegations against the company caused further backlash, this time against both Facebook and Google, over the controversial practice of collecting text and call logs through a pair of smartphone applications.

As CNBC reported, three Facebook users filed a federal suit Tuesday in California’s Northern District with the intention of obtaining class-action status on behalf of other affected users. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Though Facebook had not specifically addressed the suit as of the latest reports available, it has attempted to assuage initial tensions by explaining the context of its data collection through Android devices.

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In a “fact check” article published Sunday, Facebook emphasized that only the call and text logs of those who opted into the program on Android’s version of either the Facebook Messenger app or Facebook Lite were collected.

“You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people’s call and SMS (text) history without their permission,” the company said. “This is not the case.”

In its statement, Facebook also noted that those who opted in to the app’s permission can easily disable it and download or delete the collected data at any time. User call and text logs were never sold to a third party, the company said.

Though Android and its parent company, Google, were not named in the class-action court filing, those brands have come under fire in recent days in connection with Facebook’s behavior. Such data scraping was not reported among Apple users, whose devices are designed to limit the ability of developers to access unnecessary personal information.

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Android developers, on the other hand, are given much looser restrictions on the permissions they are allowed to ask of users who download their apps. Facebook reportedly took advantage of the long leash to request text and call logs beginning with an Android software update launched in 2015.

Prior to the update, developers of Android apps could reportedly include that permission along with others in a bulk action that, if declined by a user, would render the app inoperable.

The latest action against Facebook comes on the heels of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reported agreement to address Congress as part of hearings into Cambridge Analytica’s collection of user data.

In a recent interview last week on the topic, he suggested his openness to testifying, but indicated there could be someone else in the company better suited to answer lawmakers’ questions.

“So, the short answer is I’m happy to, if it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Facebook testifies in Congress regularly on a number of topics, some high profile and some not.”

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Birthplace
Virginia
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Education
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Location
Arizona
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment




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