Sparta Report

The Media Continues Dismembering Facebook

The media is continuing to shred Facebook, attempting to blame the social media network for Trump’s election, and also to make an example of it to any other social network companies which might work in any way with Republicans:

This past week, a New Zealand man was looking through the data Facebook had collected from him in an archive he had pulled down from the social networking site. While scanning the information Facebook had stored about his contacts, Dylan McKay discovered something distressing: Facebook also had about two years’ worth of phone call metadata from his Android phone, including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received.

The spokesperson pointed out that contact uploading is optional and installation of the application explicitly requests permission to access contacts. And users can delete contact data from their profiles using a tool accessible via Web browser.

Facebook uses phone-contact data as part of its friend recommendation algorithm. And in recent versions of the Messenger application for Android and Facebook Lite devices, a more explicit request is made to users for access to call logs and SMS logs on Android and Facebook Lite devices. But even if users didn’t give that permission to Messenger, they may have given it inadvertently for years through Facebook’s mobile apps—because of the way Android has handled permissions for accessing call logs in the past.

If you granted permission to read contacts during Facebook’s installation on Android a few versions ago—specifically before Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)—that permission also granted Facebook access to call and message logs by default. The permission structure was changed in the Android API in version 16. But Android applications could bypass this change if they were written to earlier versions of the API, so Facebook API could continue to gain access to call and SMS data by specifying an earlier Android SDK version. Google deprecated version 4.0 of the Android API in October 2017—the point at which the latest call metadata in Facebook users’ data was found. Apple iOS has never allowed silent access to call data.

It has been known for years that Facebook engages in this kind of aggressive data collection about its users, and that privacy of any kind on the internet has become a sad joke. However, the media is reporting all this information as though it’s new and shocking in their drive to force Zuckerberg to step down from Facebook.

Unfortunately, I think it will succeed. I don’t really see how Zuckerberg can withstand the kind of pressure he is under for long.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Who’d have ever thought I’d be worrying about Zuckerberg being forced to step down from Facebook?

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