Facebook angrily denies spying on Android texts
Published 27/02/2012 | 14:20
FACEBOOK has angrily denied claims that it spies on smartphone users’ text messages and accused a Sunday newspaper of "creative conspiracy theorizing".
A report in The Sunday Times said Facebook had “admitted reading text messages” via its Android app.
Today Facebook countered that the terms and conditions of its app do grant it “read/write” permission to access texts, but that the newspaper had misunderstood what this meant in the context of software.
The permission is designed to help Facebook to integrate its own communications services with texting, it said, not to read or collect messages for targeting advertising.
A Facebook spokesman also said it had so far only used the permission in internal testing as part of software development.
“The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorizing but the suggestion that we're secretly reading people texts is ridiculous,” a spokesman said.
“Instead, the permission is clearly disclosed on the app page in the Android marketplace and is in anticipation of new features that enable users to integrate Facebook features with their reading and sending of texts.
“However, other than some very limited testing, we haven't launched anything so we're not using the permission. When we do, it will be obvious to users what's happening.”
Facebook said it had been right to change its terms and conditions to grant access to texts, otherwise it could not do the development work.
The combative statement followed an even more aggressive blog post by ain Mackenzie, Facebook's communications manager for Europe. He wrote that The Sunday Times’ “disingenuous” report was “a ludicrous attempt to cook-up a story about companies spying on users”.
According to a YouGov poll, up to 70 per cent of smartphone users never read app terms and conditions, potentially leaving their personal information, including text messages, location and contacts, exposed to data collection efforts.