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Facebook accused of collecting user data from texts, photos

A lawsuit alleges Facebook used its apps to gather info on users and their friends.

Facebook
Christophe Simon/Getty Images

Facebook gathered information on users and their friends with its apps, a new filing in a California lawsuit alleges.

The filing, submitted last week to the superior court in San Mateo, California, is part of a suit brought against the social networking company in 2015 by now-defunct startup Six4Three.  

It pulls from confidential emails and messages by senior executives at Facebook, according to The Guardian. The allegations say Facebook used several methods to collect information it could use for commercial reasons. That includes tracking users' locations, reading their texts, accessing and recording from the microphones on their phones, monitoring their use of competitive apps and tracking their calls, the report says.

A Facebook representative said the claims are baseless and that Facebook doesn't log people's call and text history without their consent. The representative said logging is part of an opt-in feature for Messenger and Facebook Lite on Android, but users have to explicitly agree to use the feature and can turn it off anytime. Facebook also doesn't capture data from a microphone without consent, the representative said.

Six4Three is suing Facebook over its defunct app Pikinis, which let users zoom in on bikini photos. After a 2015 change in Facebook's policy that prevented third-party developers from accessing friend data, Six4Three sued the social networking company on the grounds that the decision hurt its business model

"When we changed our policy in 2015," a Facebook representative said, "we gave all third-party developers ample notice of material platform changes that could have impacted their applications." The company worked closely with developers to update their applications, the representative said, but Six4Three chose not to work with Facebook. 

Six4Three didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In what Facebook says is the sixth complaint in the case, Six4Three alleges that the social network tracked users and sometimes did so without consent. Facebook says those claims have nothing to do with the lawsuit.

"The allegations that they have outlined are meritless, and designed to detract from their complaint which asks the court to order Facebook to grant developer access to the users' friends' data, a capability that was eliminated in 2015," a Facebook representative said. "We have made it clear that we will fight this lawsuit and protect users' data." 

In March, Facebook admitted it collected data from people's calls and texts but said it had prior consent.

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