A Facebook reckoning

Facebook is denying that it has kept track of your text messages and phone calls without your knowledge if you use an Android phone.

Oh, they’ve done that, mind you. But Facebook is just saying they told you.

They did so, the company claims, when a graphic asked Android users whether they wanted to opt-in to the Messenger app’s ability to send SMS messages to contacts in your phone.

Seems simple enough, right?

It’s right there “upload … your call and text history.”

Nobody reads the Terms of Service, and few people apparently stopped to consider what the words in the graphic meant.

Here’s how to shut it all off:

  1. From the messenger addp, tap your profile picture in the top right corner.
  2. Scroll down and tap “people”
  3. Tape “sync contacts” and hit “OK” when it asks if you want to remove all
    contacts and stop syncing.”

The company says doing so will delete all the phone data it harvested.

Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg, the camera-shy Facebook CEO, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times apologizing for the Cambridge Analytica mining of subscriber information for the Trump campaign, acknowledging what is becoming a truism of Facebook: you can’t trust it.

In a new poll, fewer than half of Facebook’s users say they trust Facebook to abide by U.S. privacy laws. And another poll released today shows Facebook’s popularity has dropped 28 percent since last fall.

At the open today, Facebook stock got hammered again, dropping another nearly 3 percent after last week’s 14-percent drop. The FTC said it’s probing Facebook’s practices.

  • Sam M

    If you didn’t assume all this was happening I have some ocean front property in ND to sell you. Just like any other personal data… it’s already out there whether you like it or not.

  • Jeff

    I remember someone saying “State Attorney Generals are supposed to read the fine print for you”.

  • Mike Worcester
  • Guest

    Which means law enforcement can demand to paw thru that info. If stored, it can be used against you in a court of law.

  • Guest

    I thought there was an old provision in contract law that said a contract is what two folks mean it to mean. I would BET a lawyer could get a jury to say burying surprises in the terms of service = big buck payday.

    Sell whatever you want, but TELL folks what you are selling. Terms of service will no longer count.

    • Rob

      It’s called “the meeting of the minds” concept in contract law.
      And in general, the fine print elements of contracts are not viewed favorably by courts.

  • Gary F

    Pretty sure every app on your phone is doing some sort of this.

    Even the MPR app.

    • By “pretty sure”, I assume what you mean is “I really have no idea but I’m going to guess.”

      • Gary F

        Read the terms and conditions in the settings section of the MPR app. Its kept some lawyers employed.

        • What about it?

          It’s the same terms of use that’s at the bottom of this page. There’s nothing there to indicate any data mining from people’s phones is taking place,w hich was your original point.

          If you’ve got no evidence, then admit it.

          • Postal Customer

            Terms of use is not the same thing as code.

            One department writes the terms. Another department writes the code.

            You can write code to do anything.

          • OK. Your point?

          • Postal Customer

            The point is that the terms of use for software may have nothing at all to do with what the software is doing. Is anyone auditing that? Who knows?

          • Right. I didn’t see a connection between the allegation and the suggestion to look at the TOS

          • Kellpa07


  • jon

    Facebook as a web page is restricted by all the security a browser wraps around a webpage, facebook the app has no such restrictions, if any one wants to know why the facebook mobile page is limited, it’s not a limitation of the technology, it’s them trying to force you into the app so they can collect more information on you.
    It’s the same reason why facebook messages aren’t available on the mobile webpage, they want you to have an app, so you can get notified real time, and so they can steal your data real time… because that’s what’s of value to them.

  • Noelle
  • BJ

    This isn’t even fine print. It’s bold.

  • I hate the FB Messenger app on my Android phone and have never given it any of those permissions, but checked to be sure today after reading this. Still good! Unfortunately some of my friends (real friends that predated FB) insist on using it instead of emailing me. To make it tolerable, shut off the talking heads feature and don’t let it run in the background – go to settings/apps/messenger/force stop. And for Pete’s sake, don’t let it mine your contacts or know your phone number!

    • I forgot to add: Manage FB intrusiveness by disallowing all notifications. That way you can limit your FB time to a short visit in the morning and not be bothered by it the rest of the day.

    • Brian Simon

      I deleted the app several months ago & use the web interface instead. Way less intrusive. Also, their messenger Lite app is less irritating than the full version. Still don’t allow it to synch your contacts…

      • The Facebook lite app is also available. The latest version was updated on March 20, so it may be a middle ground between the bloated full app and the browser version. Same cautions apply for privacy.

  • KTFoley

    I have a hard time pinning this on FB. I recall several invitations to use apps or games, and each had a brief sentence that referred to connecting to your contacts, and so on.

    It’s not legalese, not fine print, not tucked away three screens deep.

    And it’s hard to call the data harvesting covert: an internet uses checks a relative’s wedding registry and now his or her ad space is flooded with duvet covers — even if the interaction didn’t happen on a phone or on FB. That’s pretty much a billboard announcement that data relationships are identified & preserved for future use by advertisers.

    How did we think a ubiquitous free application would fund its own upkeep and development?
    We’ve been hoodwinking ourselves.

    • Exactly.

      “How FarmVille helped users become comfortable giving away their Facebook data.

      “… [W]hat data did FarmVille gather? According to Zynga’s 2010 privacy policy:

      “‘We may offer you the opportunity to submit other
      information about yourself (such as gender, age, occupation, hobbies,
      interests, zip code, etc.), or we may be able to collect that
      information from social networking systems on which you have used Zynga
      Games or SNS [social networking] Apps (in accordance with the terms of
      use of those systems).’

      “Signing up to play FarmVille also gave Zynga access
      to your friend list (hence the annoying notifications) and their public
      profiles. After players begin playing, and in doing so grant permission
      to their data, it’s stored on Zynga’s servers.”


    • Peggy K Brennan

      Totally agree!! And, I signed in with FB so there goes the data again.

  • Jeff C.

    I knew FaceBook was spooky when I was new to FaceBook and it suggested that I become friends with my sister. We have different last names. We live in different timezones. We don’t have any common friends. We don’t have any common FB “likes”. We only overlapped in high school one year and went to different colleges. Our parents aren’t on FaceBook. There was no common linkage, as far as FaceBook should know. But it knew. It is using data that I don’t know about to learn things about me that I don’t necessarily want it to know.

    • Brian Simon

      I used a different email to create a new facebook acvount for another site that required facebook to login (their attempt to make sure I’m “real”). I didn’t friend anybody, follow anybody, allow reference to my contacts, or do anything else with the account. Yet facebook continually sends email to that address suggesting I friend all of my friends from my real account. They could be using the IP addresses for the devices I’ve used to login to those accounts, as that’s about the only thing that ties them together.

  • crystals

    The only good thing about all of this is that it has hopefully spared us from more Zuckerberg for President, Maybe? campaigning.

  • AL287

    I am so glad I don’t have a Facebook account.

    • Rob


  • Tyler

    Part of the issue is that, on Android devices, for a long time using apps was an “all or nothing” affair in regards to permissions. You had to either give permission to the app for all settings (location access, storage access, microphone access, SMS access, Contacts access, etc), or none at all. This was how the Android operating system itself was built. It was only somewhat recently that permissions were on a case-by-case basis, where you could grant an app permission to location access, but not contacts.

    Nonethless, it’s time to regulate Facebook, Twitter, and Google. We need greater controls and rules over datasharing, even if we are the products.