Facebook denies UK report about reading users' texts

Facebook is moving fast to deny a report from a UK newspaper that claimed the company was eavesdropping on text messages via the company's smartphone app. The Sunday Times web site (which is behind a paywall) claims that Facebook "admitted" to such practices as a way to get research to develop its own messaging service.

However, Facebook has now denied that the company is reading text messages from smartphone users. In a statement sent to Business Insider it says that the Facebook smartphone app's permissions include SMS read/write. The statement adds:

The reason it is on there is because we have done some testing (not with the general public) of products that require the SMS part of the phone to talk to the Facebook App.  That's what the read&write refers to – the line of communication needed to integrate the two things.

The statement also said the Sunday Times article was leaping to the conclusion that Facebook was testing a new messaging system and it was "completely wrong" in saying that Facebook was in fact reading SMS messages from users.

The Sunday Times article even claims that Google's YouTube apps could take over a smartphone's camera and make it take pictures and videos at any time. Google has yet to respond to this claim.

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16 Comments

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It's really not a long way from selling your personal details to ad companies to eavesdrop on your SMS for the same, or even more nefarious, reasons.

Privacy is dead. And your info is worth $$$

As much as I hate the Sunday Times, quote from facebook:

The reason it is on there is because we have done some testing (not with the general public) of products that require the SMS part of the phone to talk to the Facebook App. That's what the read&write refers to - the line of communication needed to integrate the two things.
What a load of BS.

If an app asks for read/write permissions for SMS that means it can read/write SMS messages if granted and to say it means anything else is ********. If such functionality is not allegedly part of the app then there is no requirement for that permission.

I remember a small newspaper, News of the World (you might have heard of it), tampering around with user's phones to access their private data once upon a time. Can someone remind me what happened to them and why Facebook should be careful?

The Teej said,
I remember a small newspaper, News of the World (you might have heard of it), tampering around with user's phones to access their private data once upon a time. Can someone remind me what happened to them and why Facebook should be careful?

And we all know who owns the Sunday Times don't we?
Lol

aww come on. who would be stupid enough to put their most intimate, most private, most personal details online.

/sarcasm off

That bit about the YouTube app is BS.

First off, how would you expect the video recording feature to work if you don't give it camera access?

SharpGreen said,

First off, how would you expect the video recording feature to work if you don't give it camera access?

Unfortunately, I don't use Android, so don't really know anything about this
But just thinking about it, couldn't the YouTube app ask for cam access as a type of "quick record & upload" thing?

Matthew_Thepc said,

Unfortunately, I don't use Android, so don't really know anything about this
But just thinking about it, couldn't the YouTube app ask for cam access as a type of "quick record & upload" thing?

No. There is no way in Android to ask for permissions after an app is already installed. If a permission isn't requested in the manifest file by an app's developer during development, then there is no way to get it after. Well there are no valid ways to do it that wouldn't be a considered a security breach.

SharpGreen said,

No. There is no way in Android to ask for permissions after an app is already installed. If a permission isn't requested in the manifest file by an app's developer during development, then there is no way to get it after. Well there are no valid ways to do it that wouldn't be a considered a security breach.


No, what I mean is that maybe YouTube asks for permissions in their manifest (aka when it's first installed) and then (does Android allow apps to show reasons for requested permissions?) claims that it's only for the quick upload feature? Just speculating here

Matthew_Thepc said,

No, what I mean is that maybe YouTube asks for permissions in their manifest (aka when it's first installed) and then (does Android allow apps to show reasons for requested permissions?) claims that it's only for the quick upload feature? Just speculating here

Oh. Well yea. They'd have to. As I explained, that is the only to get access to the camera. Also no, there are short pre-determined (by the OS) descriptions that tell what gaining a certain permission allows an app to do, that aren't changeable by an app.

It also appears that I'm wrong. The youtube app just lets you upload pre-existing videos. Doesn't even have access to the camera. So the youtube bit of this article is not only BS but completely inaccurate.

SharpGreen said,

Oh. Well yea. They'd have to. As I explained, that is the only to get access to the camera. Also no, there are short pre-determined (by the OS) descriptions that tell what gaining a certain permission allows an app to do, that aren't changeable by an app.

It also appears that I'm wrong. The youtube app just lets you upload pre-existing videos. Doesn't even have access to the camera. So the youtube bit of this article is not only BS but completely inaccurate.


hmm, then I guess you're right