Facebook hit with class-action lawsuit over Android data collection

14 May 2018

Facebook app. Image: Angie Yeoh/Shutterstock

Facebook may have to add another class-action lawsuit to its list of woes.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Facebook had been collecting metadata from Android handsets, including names, call duration and phone numbers.

The company responded to complaints by saying the text and call history recording was an ‘opt-in’ feature, which had to be expressly agreed to by the user. Following this statement, many noted that the opt-in should have been more obviously displayed.

A bait-and-switch

Now, one unhappy user has filed a lawsuit in Northern California against Facebook due to this data collection procedure. John Condelles III said that the company’s actions “presents several wrongs, including a consumer bait-and-switch, an invasion of privacy, wrongful monitoring of minors and potential attacks on privileged communications”.

The suit, obtained by The Register, alleges: “On mobile devices utilising the Android version of Facebook apps (or ‘Android mobile devices’), Facebook has collected and stored information in a scope and manner beyond that which users knowingly authorised. The practice is ongoing.

“This activity includes assessing users’ call and text histories (including metadata, such as the names and number of persons contacted), the times of such contacts and the lengths of such contacts.”

Facebook collected data from Android users

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many people who had chosen to delete their Facebook accounts were shocked at the volume of data collected by the company. Users began combing through the data held on them by Facebook and many grew concerned.

The filing continues, stating: “The terms of service and privacy notice materials do not inform (and in the past, have not informed) the ordinary and reasonably attentive Facebook user that installing the application on a mobile device will result in the logging of all the user’s phone and text communications – including recipients, dates of communication, length of communication and mode of communication – on Facebook’s servers for Facebook’s own use.”

Any Android app that could access contacts could have also accessed phone and text logs up until 2012, something the OS did not notify people about.

“By granting this access, Android users were also automatically and unknowingly granting Facebook permission to ‘scrape’, or automatically gather, Android users’ call and text logs,” the documents state. “In other words, Facebook scraped years worth of call and text data, including whether the call was ‘incoming’, ‘outgoing’ or ‘missed’; the data and time of each call; the number dialled; the individual called; and the duration of each call.”

At least $5m is being sought by Condelles, who also hopes to turn the suit into a countrywide class action in the US. The social network is also facing another class-action suit from UK and US lawyers, along with Cambridge Analytica and two other firms.

Facebook app. Image: Angie Yeoh/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects