Meta Settlement Over Android Call-Scraping Moves Forward

A federal judge on Wednesday granted preliminary approval to Meta's settlement of a class-action over claims that the company violated Android users' privacy by scraping data about phone calls and texts from their devices.

The deal requires the company to delete any phone calls or text log data that had been obtained from U.S. Android users, and to avoid scraping calls or text logs through the Messenger app. The settlement doesn't require the company to pay monetary damages.

If granted final approval by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco, the settlement will resolve a battle dating to 2018, when Android users sued Facebook for allegedly gathering information about their calls and text messages.

The lawsuit came soon after software developer Dylan McKay said on Twitter that Facebook had compiled information about every call he made from his Android phone -- including names and numbers of the people called, and the length of the calls.

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Facebook responded to the report by acknowledging that it logged metadata about people's calls, but said it only did so when people who downloaded Messenger agreed to allow the company to gather the data.

The smartphone users alleged in their complaint that upon installation of Messenger, they were only asked to allow the app to access their contacts -- not call and text logs.

Facebook disputed that allegation, arguing that it presented users with an additional screen that sought permission to access data about calls and texts.

Before agreeing to settle the case, Facebook argued in court papers that the matter should be dismissed for several reasons, including that the data collection didn't cause any injury.

Seeborg rejected Facebook's argument in 2019, writing that the consumers alleged that the scraping affected their phones by draining the batteries and depleting storage space, and also that it diminished the market value of their personal information.

After the lawsuit was filed, emails surfaced that appeared to show company executives discussing how they could use a 2015 Android update to capture metadata about people's phone calls.

“This is a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective but it appears that the growth team will charge ahead and do it,” an executive wrote.

Seeborg will decide whether to grant the settlement final approval after a hearing scheduled for Oct. 20.

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