For the last few days, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been testifying before Congress.
The questions and criticisms levied at the 33-year-old tech executive were wide-ranging. But at least in one very specific case, Zuckerberg’s answer only brought up more questions.
At one point, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada asked Zuckerberg if Facebook has ever collected the “content of phone calls or messages through any Facebook application or service?”
In response, Zuckerberg provided the following answer (via a transcript of the testimony published by The Washington Post).
“I don’t believe we have ever collected the content of — of phone calls. We have an app called Messenger that allows people to message most of their Facebook friends,” Zuckerberg said. “And we do on — in the Android operating system allow people to use that app as their client for both Facebook messages and texts. So we do allow people to import their texts into that.”
Zuckerberg is talking about the ability to send and receive SMS text messages via Facebook Messenger on Android. That capability was first rolled out in January 2016, as PC Mag reported at the time. But, in the light of recent events, it’s a feature that’s the slightest bit concerning.
Just yesterday, an Android user hit Facebook with a class action lawsuit, alleging that the social media juggernaut was automatically collecting “calls and text messages” even when using platforms not connected to Facebook’s apps, Law360 reported.
Consider that Facebook has admitted to collecting call and text logs from Android users. While the company positions it as a way to help people stay connected via Messenger, the breadth of data it collects (which includes the time and date, duration of calls, and recipients) might seem unsettling.
On a similar note, it was recently revealed that Facebook actually uses automated tools to scan the content of private messages sent via Messenger.
It’s not hard to connect the dots between the two. And it’s worrying that Zuckerberg did not explicitly deny collecting or logging the contents of SMS text messages sent or received via the Android Messenger app.