It has emerged that Facebook’s wide scale violation of user’s privacy on an unprecedented scale has also now extended to Android users.

If the Facebook Messenger app is installed on your Android device, there are chances that Facebook has been collecting contacts, SMS and call history data until at least late last year.

This discovery was made by a New Zealand-based programmer who downloaded a ZIP file from Facebook and much to his surprise discovered it included complete logs of incoming and outgoing calls, SMS messages and contacts.

This has fuelled the privacy debate surrounding Facebook and its data sharing practices following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

A Facebook spokesperson reportedly said because nearly all social networking sites have been designed to make it easier for users to connect with their friends and family members, Facebook also uploads its users’ contacts to offer the same service.

However, why Facebook should gather call logs and SMS messages is as yet unexplained. However, the company did say it never collects call data surreptitiously.

That said, many Android users will have had no idea that Facebook was scooping up so much data.

The problem with Android

Google’s Android is an ‘open’ platform which means companies and developers can tweak the operating system to meet their own needs. They do this by using an application programming interface (API) provided by Google which helps developers dovetail their application with the Android platform.
  • Initially Android API permissions weren’t very strict. As a result in older versions of Android the Facebook app took away contact permission at the time of installation. This allowed Facebook to access call and message data automatically.
  • In time Google changed the way Android permissions worked by informing users whenever an app tried to execute permissions.
  • But here’s the sneaky bit, third party developers such as Facebook were able to bypass this change. As a result Facebook continued accessing call and SMS data until Google released a new version of the Android API in October last year.

How to stop Facebook hoovering up your Android data

  • If you use an Android device and don't want Facebook to store or continuously upload your contacts to its server simply turn off the continuous uploading setting in the Facebook Messenger app.
  • However, please note this change will also delete all your previously uploaded contacts.
  • If you use an Apple device, Apple’s iOS has never allowed silent access to call data so you’re safe.

How to check what data Facebook holds on you

  • Go to the arrow at the top right hand side of your Facebook home page.
  • Click on this and then scroll down and click on Settings
  • This will take you to General Account Settings
  • Beneath your settings information you will see Download a copy of your Facebook data
  • Click on this and it will take you through to a page where you will see a green button and Download Archive
  • Click on this and the data will download though you have to add in your password to a pop-up box before the process starts

Interestingly, you’ll find all the subjects you ever expressed an interest in, even if ever so slightly, listed as ‘Ad topics’, as well as every message you have sent and received. It’s a little creepy.