Facebook denies report it’s snooping through texts

February 27, 2012

Facebook has denied a report in the Sunday Times in London that the social network is secretly reading the text messages of users who have downloaded its mobile app.

Fox News reported that the Times story, which is behind a paywall, reported that Facebook is accessing the data as part of testing for a messaging service it plans to launch in the future.

In a statement, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said that the permission to access text messages is clearly listed in the app’s terms and conditions, but that the company currently isn’t reading text messages.

“The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorizing but the suggestion that we’re secretly reading people’s texts is ridiculous,” the company said in a statement. “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 texts. However, other than some very limited testing, we haven’t launched anything so we’re not using the permission. If we do, it will be obvious to users what’s happening. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.”

The Facebook app permissions list posted on the Android Market does, in fact, include permissions that allow the company to edit, receive, read or send SMS messages, which would allow the company to integrate its services with text messaging.

In a Facebook note, the company’s European communications lead Iain Mackenzie called the Times piece ”disingenuous” and clarified several points in the article.

“Just as an aside. . . we didn’t say we’re launching a messenger product,” Mackenzie wrote, reiterating that the company only uses the read/write permissions listed in the terms and conditions of the app in limited testing with people who know what is being tested.

According to a survey commissioned by the Times, 70 percent of respondents said that they do not check what permissions apps require before downloading them.

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Path deletes contact data, updates app

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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