Last week, a programmer discovered Facebook had been tracking his phone calls from his Android phone, adding fuel to the fire over Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica Privacy scandal. Now, the social media network has released an official statement on just what’s going on. The gist? Yes, Facebook tracks who you call and text and how often, but that’s only because you gave the network permission to do so.
“Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android,” Facebook said in a blog post shared on Sunday, March 25. “This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about, and provides you with a better experience across Facebook. People have to expressly agree to use this feature.”
Facebook says that the feature was used to import contacts to Messenger and Messenger Lite, allowing users to easily connect with friends that are already inside the contacts list on the phone. As users began downloading exactly what data Facebook has on them in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, however, many realized the tool also tracked who they called and when.
The call and SMS tracking that stores who you talked to and when appears to have only impacted Android users. On Android, Facebook continually tracks the information for users that choose to use their contact data in Messenger and Messenger Lite. iOS users can also sync their contacts to the messaging platform.
Users surprised to find their call tracking on their list of Facebook data may not quite agree that they previously “expressly” agreed to turn the feature on. In today’s warning before turning the feature on, Facebook warns users that “your contacts will be continuously synced with our servers.”
The good news? Facebook says the content of calls or text messages is not saved. Facebook also says that the data isn’t shared with third parties. And even better, users can delete the data that Facebook already has.
Inside the Messenger app, users can navigate to the home icon and then tap on their profile picture in the upper left corner. Inside the “people” option, users can switch off the option that says “sync contacts.” Facebook says that when the sync contacts option is turned off, previous contact information that was synced to the messaging platform is also deleted.
Users can also navigate to the contact page to see a list of the people added to Messenger as a result of that sync. From this page, users can also choose to delete all the contacts previously synced as well. Users that want to see just what data Facebook has on them can download a copy inside the General Account Settings.