If you’re using Facebook’s Messenger app today, it may have asked you for permission to track “your call and text history” to help “friends find each other on Facebook.”
But Ars Technica reports that on earlier editions of Android, prior to version 4.1, Facebook’s apps were able to gather that data without explicitly asking for permission if you granted it permission to access your contacts. While Facebook said in a blog post issued in response to the Ars Technica article that the data collection only took place on its Messenger and Facebook Lite apps, the author of the Ars story wrote that Facebook recorded his call data even though he never installed Messenger. (Facebook Lite is designed for what the company calls “emerging markets.”)
Android enabled the data collection. On earlier versions of Google’s operating system, permission to access your lists of contacts included the ability for apps to see when and how you actually contacted those people. Older apps, including Facebook, were able to access that data using an older version of the Android API until last October, when Google ended support for that version, according to Ars. For iOS users, Apple has never allowed apps to scoop up call and text data with contacts. Facebook says it never had access to text message or call contents and that it has never sold any of the collected metadata.
Last November, Quartz found that Android phones were tracking nearby cell-phone towers and sending that information to Google–even if users had turned off location services. Amid reports of government investigations, Google said it was ending the practice and discarding cell tower data.
If you want to see what data Facebook is storing about you, you can do so from Facebook’s “settings” menu by clicking “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” You can also opt out of call and text data sharing in the current Messenger and Facebook Lite apps, which Facebook says will cause its servers to delete all stored data.