- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Facebook was sued in federal court Tuesday for quietly scraping the call and text data of account holders who used its Android smartphone apps, adding fresh litigation to the embattled social network’s growing list of legal woes.

Brought on behalf of Facebook users Anthony Williams, Tyoka Brumfield and Wendy Burnett, the 22-page class action complaint filed in San Francisco federal court alleges the world’s largest social network violated consumer protection and privacy laws by siphoning phone data from Android users who ran older versions of its Messenger and Lite apps.

The apps scraped “years worth of call and text data, including whether each call was ‘Incoming,’ ‘Outgoing’ or ‘Missed,’ the date and time of each call, the number dialed, the individual called and the duration of each call,” attorney L. Timothy Fisher wrote in the complaint.

“These data are then sent to Facebook and incorporated into the company’s trove of User Data, which in turn are monetized for advertising purposes,” the lawsuit alleges.

“In all reasonable probability,” Mr. Fisher wrote, plaintiffs “would not have installed or used the Facebook Messenger app, or would have used it on materially different terms, had [they] known the truth about the app’s practice of scraping call and text logs.”

The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of all affected Facebook users and requests unspecified compensatory, statutory and punitive damages.

“We are looking into these claims,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Washington Times.

The Ars Tehnica website first reported over the weekend that Facebook surreptitiously collected Android users’ call and text data by exploiting a vulnerability in the permission settings of older phones that allowed the social network to access users’ entire contact lists.

Facebook never explicitly revealed that the data was being collected,” and that “there was never an explicit message requesting access to phone call and SMS [text] data,” Ars Technica reported.

“The most important part of apps and services that help you make connections is to make it easy to find the people you want to connect with. So, the first time you sign in on your phone to a messaging or social app, it’s a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts,” a Facebook spokesperson replied to the original Ars report.

The class action complaint comes as Facebook finds itself under fire over recent reports involving its ties to Cambridge Analytica, a data and communications firm accused of exploiting the personal information of 50 million Facebook users as part of its work for political clients including the 2016 Trump campaign.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook’s privacy policies as a result of the Cambridge Analytica reports, the FTC announced this week, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to testify before Congress about the matter, multiple news outlets reported Tuesday.

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