back to article Sueballs flying over Facebook's Android app data slurping

Facebook can add a class action lawsuit to the list of legal woes it faces over data misuse revelations. A complaint [PDF] filed in the social network's home district of Northern California accuses Facebook of violating both state and federal law when it logged and collected information from the Android version of its mobile …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laudable but...

    Suing them for $5m? A drop in the ocean for them surely?

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Laudable but...

      The first of many I suspect. What is worse for FailBook is if these cases generate ongoing negative publicity about their antics. They rely more than Chocolate Factory on user acquiescence at a minimum to their data slurping ways as they need a critical mass of active users to be viable; MySpace anyone? While Chocolate Factory is vulnerable on the same grounds their services are more varied so they are less reliant on anyone service to the degree FailBook is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Laudable but...@a_yank_lurker

        The "millennials" are so tied up in "liking" and having to have "recognition" of their generally pointless lives that they will still flock to the cess pit that is facebook.

        Like the proverbial *lemmings off a cliff, they will continue to sign up in droves.

        Nothing will discourage them.

        If not FB then some other "social meeja" waste of space.

        It's only the sane, privacy respecting folks that can dump it with no consequences.

        At the moment I have a great deal of conflict with FB, it has just allowed me (well, my mate) to locate and contact one of my birth parents in the space of a few days. The local council were still fumbling around in the dark after 9 months.

        I suppose, occasionally, FB does have its uses but my privacy far outweighs them.

        *I know lemming don't run off cliffs but its perceived wisdom, irrespective of its validity.

    2. getHandle

      Re: Laudable but...

      I hoped it was $5m per installation!

    3. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: Laudable but...

      Its a nuisance lawsuit that is just the tip of the iceberg. If they win/settle, FB faces more lawsuits. Also it could mean that it could become a class action lawsuit.

      Either way... FB is going to be spending $$$$ on lawyers and settlements.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laudable but...

      I find no need whatsoever for Twatter, Faceplant or Instaspam after trying them all briefly. I have no desire to know what random crap other people are doing every second of the day, or to be bombarded with offensive mass market "politically correct" opinions. The best solution is as always, don't feed the trolls...

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  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a data collecting company

    The connecting people bit is just busy work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The connecting people bit is just busy work"

      "Connecting people" is the needed foundations to built the data slurp on - and make it effective.

      They need to "connect people" to ensure more data keeps coming in, and to correlate those data, to increase their depth, and discover and exploit your weaknesses. Slurping your calls and SMS is another way to achieve it.

      So FB is not a blatant liar when it says its "dream" is to connect people - just they don't say all the truth about why they need it - it's not to help you, it's to help its profit.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.


    Which version of Android are we talking about here? I'm pretty sure from experience there is a massive "Accept" button when you install an app or use it with regards to permissions.

    I'm also wondering how deep this rabbit hole goes, Google are as shifty as Facebook, if not shifty-er (is this a word? if not it should be) so where are we going here? How long before the most not-evil self certifying company on the planet is fingered for being, you know, "evil"?

    Maybe they targeted both google+ users? I just don't know but it's about to get interesting.

    1. whitepines

      Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

      You do realize that Facebook comes pre-installed on many Android devices, and that the "Accept button" on these is actually legalese buried in a click-through agreement on device start (or, worse, one of those probably-illegal shrinkwrap licenses)?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

        I do but there is at some point an acceptance of said permissions.

      2. Michael Habel

        Re:You do realize...

        Well even if it came as a Pre-installed piece of Bloatware. You do ~realize~ that you still have to actually register yourself on Facebook, to actually use it right.

        So go ahead, and pull the other one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re:You do realize...

          Facebook slurps data from everyone, if they've got an account or not.

          Your other one has been pulled.

      3. thejynxed

        Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

        My phone never even had that much, and the app came pre-installed as a system service. Can't root this particular device either, best I could do was disable it. It's related services are not running, however, and I don't think they can on Android N or later once an app is disabled.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

          Even if it was preinstalled you would have to accept the runtime permission the first time you run it up.

          It doesn't "install a system service", that is utter nonsense. The first time you run it up, it sets up a background task that runs in the app sandbox. You disable the app, you disable the background app service

          1. ctr00001

            Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

            It does on some devices - facebook get the device manufacturer to load a few apps in system/priv that run as system services from the time you first start your device, regardless as to whether you have signed into facebook or even have a fadcebook account.

          2. Charles 9

            Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

            ONLY if you're running Marshmallow or later.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "there is a massive "Accept" button"

      That's why the GDPR is making this practice illegal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "there is a massive "Accept" button"

        Lets hope so.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

      Nope, there are multiple runtime accept buttons. One the first time it wants access to SMS, one for contacts and so on.

      The guy is an idiot frankly. "Facebook wants permission to read SMS", accept, deny. Clicks accept, complains it can read SMS....

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: I'm shocked, shocked to the very core.

        > Nope, there are multiple runtime accept buttons

        Depends on the version of Android... the individual permissions grants is relatively very recent.

        On several phones, they've had facebook preinstalled and there was never any permissions dialogs.

  6. Michael Habel

    Idiot Lawyers, and Money

    Will soon be parted. Assuming the Judge will be impartial enough to understand Facebook's scheme. And, no it doesn't make it any less slimy. But, to feign ignorance about how Facebook, and co. Work post 2012, when everyone, and their Mutt were barking along the lines of "You were the Product that's being sold!" Were falling on deaf ears.

    Well I have very little sympathy in this case. Unless you can say that a Representative of Facebook came to you, and Heald a Gun to your Head, and said spill your Guts. It was your own choice to do so, so live with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Idiot Lawyers, and Money

      Fine. Now try explaining all that to Average Joe, or worse your 60+ mother who just had a new phone for their birthday which came with FB pre-installed, ready to slurp all of your contacts. (Try getting them to uninstall an app.)

      It's always easy to assume the moral high-ground when you know what you're talking about.

    2. jelabarre59

      Re: Idiot Lawyers, and Money

      Well I have very little sympathy in this case. Unless you can say that a Representative of Facebook came to you, and Heald a Gun to your Head, and said spill your Guts. It was your own choice to do so, so live with it.

      I expect part of what is at issue here is FB took on *more* access/permissions than it should have. Even though a user may have authorized permissions, there would be expectations on just how far those permissions would go, and FB went well beyond that.

      Fortunately my "smart"phone is old enough to not have the FB app pre-installed (it had a few apps for services that don't even exist anymore). Would have disabled it if it *had* been there (don't need apps with digital-OCD thinking they have to query the internet every 5 minites).

      I am curious, though; if you had a phone with a built-in FB app, but not configured for a user account, would it *still* collect and forward data?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about older devices?

    How will the GDPR affect the use of older devices? Apps have to be changed to meet the new rules, so how about the OS, especially on older devices? Do a factory reset and you will need to agree to agreements that would not meet the new standards.

    Then there is the OEM service SNS or Social Networking Synchronisation app which has been on all the branded phones that we looked at. Cyanogen based devices looked at did not appear to have this feature.

    From what I understand, it is still included/used to slurp data via OEM servers by Social Media companies.

    Years ago understand, as post-grad research project, we set up HTC Desire mobile and false FB account ID. The FB App was disabled and the device populated with generated data. The device was used to make calls to specific temporary numbers. After a while the data turned up in the FB account.

    IIRC the names on the contacts list was populated with random real names taken from a chinese public phone directory with addresses altered. These then turned up as friend recommendations on the FB account a few weeks later.

    Unfortunately, the Uni concerned buried our research in fear of big tech reprisal after we sought clarification from HTC/FB and got a very terse legal response.

    As a previous AC stated, permission was found buried in the legal statement you have to agree to to use the device.

    With the GDPR coming into use, it must surely render all these click through/shrink-wrap agreements mute/illegal. If you reset your device and are again faced with the agreement to use the device, are the OEMS now in breech? With SNS active, are the OEM'S actively acting without consent or consent obtained illegally?

    FB and Twitter are both factory installed on many devices, I am told that even if disabled, the background services still run.

    Roll on GDPR. Let's hope the test cases happen sooner than later.

    Incidently, my cynical US based colleague postulated that in the incoming EU law is being treated as a payday bonanza by US politicians who will use the threat of rollout over there to extract more campaign funds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about older devices?

      "Apps have to be changed to meet the new rules, so how about the OS, especially on older devices? Do a factory reset and you will need to agree to agreements that would not meet the new standards."

      Then they would have to block you being able to use such app versions, or make some other provision for proper acceptance of T&Cs. Or pay a large fine each time someone complains. GDPR doesn't care when the app was written. It's about what you do now from now.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: What about older devices?

        Or just not have any physical presence in the EU, in which case hostile sovereignty gets in the way.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if it's just the Facebook app

    My wife has the same phone as I have. She loaded Instagram on hers. Since then, her battery lasts half the time mine does. I wonder what that app is doing in the background....

    1. Paratrooping Parrot

      Re: I wonder if it's just the Facebook app

      I use Greenify to try and kill Instagram, so then I can check it whenever I want. I don't let Greenify do things automatically though.

  9. Terje

    What I loathe to no end is the fact that on most phones (my lovely HTC10 included) the bloody spying bloatware comes preinstalled and unless you root the phone it can't be uninstalled... Sure you can disable it, but it still slurps a not insignificant amount of space.

  10. Anonymous South African Coward


    Nah, facebewb android app is not installed on my Xiaomi device. Neither is it on my other devices.

    Don't want it, it just sucks you dry in the battery, data and productivity dept.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sueballs flying

    when the human race has finally completed its self-extermination, there will be only three species left: rats, cockroaches, and lawyers. Take a guess who's left when the rats decide to go after the cockroaches...

  12. John Lilburne

    Android is eminently pwnable ...

    ... then it seems.

  13. RobThBay

    Sticking with BB10

    One more reason that I'll keep using my Blackberry BB10 Passport for as long as possible. I know they don't have all the latest apps, so I use their browser to access the sites that I need. When the Passport eventually dies then I'll switch to my spare Passport.

  14. thejynxed

    This isn't new news outside of them being finally sued for it. Slashdot and Reddit have discussed this ever since the app came out.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook Installer/Facebook Manager

    Some Android devices come with the Facebook app already installed.

    Even after uninstalling the Facebook app two other Facebook related system level apps remain: Facebook Installer and Facebook Manager still using data in the background.

    I've even seen Android devices to where the Facebook app could not be uninstalled, only disabled.

  16. Paratrooping Parrot

    Facebook on mobile browser

    I have noticed in the past few weeks, Facebook have deliberately been making their mobile website, the m. website rather bloaty. Before it was very quick at loading, but now it is very slow. This seems to have coincided with the release of the Facebook lite application.

    I am running Oreo on my mobile, does that mean that I can block Facebook lite from accessing almost anything and it would work?

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