Facebook denies it’s reading user text messages

27 Feb 2012

Facebook has denied it is reading its users’ text messages after a report emerged claiming the social network did this as it tested a new service.

A Sunday Times report claimed Facebook admitted to reading text messages as it tested its own Facebook-branded messaging service.

The report alleged that the user’s location data, contacts list and browser history are often accessed and at times transmitted to third-party companies, including advertisers. It also claimed other apps, such as Flickr and Yahoo! Messenger, accessed this data.

However, Facebook told Business Insider it wasn’t reading text messages. The spokesperson said that on the Android app store, its Facebook app permissions include “SMS read/write” but this did not mean it reads text messages from users’ phones.

The spokesperson said Facebook’s products required the SMS part of the phone to “talk” to its Facebook app and that the “read” and “write” part of the permissions refers to “the line of communication needed to integrate the two things.”

“Lots of communications apps use these permissions. Think of all those apps that act as replacements to the build-in SMS software,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson did not confirm or deny that Facebook was working on a new messaging app, but said testing on SMS did not necessarily mean it was building one, noting that SMS could be used for carrier billing. It also said it tests its products internally, not with the general public.