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Facebook Denies Spying On Android Users’ SMS Texts

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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The social network giant accuses The Sunday Times of misunderstanding its Android app’s SMS functionality

Facebook has vehemently denied allegations made by The Sunday Times that it is spying on text messages sent and received by Android users who have installed the social network’s app on their phone.

It has accused the newspaper of “creative conspiracy theorising” after it sent details about the Android application’s requests for SMS access permissions.

Facebook dis-Likes The Sunday Times

“Companies are using smartphone apps to extract vast quantities of private information about users’ lives, in some cases reading their text messages and intercepting calls,” read the Sunday Times report. “Among those that admitted reading text messages this weekend was the internet giant Facebook, which said it was accessing the information as part of a trial to launch its own messaging service.”

In his blog post, Facebook’s Iain McKenzie claimed the company worked with the newspaper to explain why the Android app requested some SMS permissions. He said that Facebook told The Sunday Times that it was currently running a test of mobile features that integrate SMS functionality, and has declared it be present in all versions from 1.7 onwards.

He also says that this functionality is not currently implemented for the majority of the users and, if they ever did so, it would be accompanied by guidance and educational materials.

In a statement, Facebook said that the permission was designed to integrate its own communication service with texting, not to read or collect messages for advertising purposes, and that it had so far only used the permissions for internal development tests.

The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorising but the suggestion that we’re secretly reading people’s texts is ridiculous,” said a spokesman. “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.”

More than half of the UK population currently owns a smartphone, with half using Android devices. The majority of Brits are also on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, a cause for concern given that those who use their smartphones to access social media are said to be prone to identity theft.

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