Having yet to right its ship in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, Facebook could have another privacy mess on its hands.
The social giant is now being accused of storing the call logs and SMS messages of unwitting Android gadget owners.
Since Saturday, reports in Condé Nast’s Ars Technica, The Wall Street Journal and other publications have detailed the practice. In response, Facebook is insisting it never stored such data without first getting users’ explicit permission.
“Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android,” according to a company statement. “People have to expressly agree to use this feature.”
Further defending the policy, Facebook insists it helps users find and stay connected with friends and family, “and provides you with a better experience across Facebook.”
The tech titan also notes that users can always turn on the storing feature in the settings section of their app, at which point “all previously shared call and text history shared via that app is deleted.”
Facebook says the practice has been in place for a few years, during which time it has never sold any of the stored user data. The company also points out the feature never collected the content of users’ text messages or calls.
Still, the timing of the revelation couldn’t be worse for Facebook.
From forcing its camera-shy CEO to give TV interviews to full-page newspaper ads offering words of apology, the company is in damage-control mode over the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.
After days of silence, last week, Mark Zuckerberg finally addressed the security breakdown, which exposed the personal information of some 50 million users. In a post, he called it “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it.”
For some users, however, Zuckerberg’s apology came too late. Among other detractors, WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton told his Twitter followers to delete Facebook’s app from their devices.
In TV interviews, Facebook’s CEO said he would be “happy” to testify before Congress if he decides it’s “the right thing to do.”
Zuckerberg also said he is not necessarily opposed to the government regulating Facebook. For him, the question is: “What is the right regulation?”
Despite the recent bad press -- and calls by some to #deletefacebook -- some analysts see the company as nearly invincible.
“Facebook’s network effect does help protect it,” Forrester Research analyst Jeff Pollard told Digital News Daily last week. “For some people, the only way they stay in touch is via Facebook.”