Facebook Denies Reading Users’ Text Messages

Oh dear, it seems someone not only got their facts all muddled up, but also managed to upset the world’s largest social network in the process.

We told you earlier about an article in The Sunday Times which appeared to claim that Facebook’s Android app is reading all our personal SMS messages. Obviously this caused an outcry online, and it’s almost certain that at one point at some over-zealous privacy advocated were about to begin marching on Mark Zuckerberg’s home. But alas, easily infringed people, it appears The Sunday Times did not have all the facts.

The Verge has heard back from Facebook after initially asking for comment on the situation, as did many web sites covering the story. Maybe it’s not what you know, but who you know?

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According to Facebook, the Android app does indeed ask for SMS permissions during installation, and that is clearly states as is the case with all Android apps when you install them from the Android Market. The thing is, it’s not actually used yet, and the permissions themselves are part of an upcoming feature that will enable users to integrate Facebook features into their SMS conversations.

According to Facebook,

The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorizing but the suggestion that we’re secretly reading people’s texts is ridiculous. 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.

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What this all boils down to is actually pretty simple: someone at The Sunday Times got a little carried away and wrote a story that may have been well intentioned by generally wasn’t all that factual. Yes Facebook does indeed have access to your SMS messages in the broadest sense of the term, but it doesn’t actually go anywhere near them and most certainly doesn’t read them.

But hey, why let that stand in the way of stirring up a little online privacy controversy, right?

Of course, we are indeed taking Facebook’s word for all of this, and we know that the company really will not rest until it knows what we’re thinking. At least, that’s what some want us to believe.

Tinfoil hat time?

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