Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones, a court case in California alleges.
The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years.
…Documents filed in the court last week draw upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives, which are currently sealed.
…The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.
“Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users’ location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls,” one court document says.
…It claims the social media company lured developers and investors on to the platform by intentionally misleading them about data controls and privacy settings. As part of the January filing, it claims Facebook tracked users extensively, sometimes without consent.
On Android phones, the company was able to collect metadata and content from text messages, the lawsuit alleges. On iPhones it could access most photos, including those that had not been uploaded to Facebook, Six4Three claims.
Other alleged projects included one to remotely activate Bluetooth, allowing the company to pinpoint a user’s location without them explicitly agreeing to it. Another involved the development of privacy settings with an early end date that was not flagged to users, letting them expire without notice, the court documents claim.
…It also collected information sent by non-subscribers to friends or contacts who had Facebook apps installed on their phones, the court documents claim. Because these people would not have been Facebook users, it would have been impossible for them to have consented to Facebook’s collection of their data.
…Facebook has not fully disclosed the manner in which it pre-processes photos on the iOS camera roll, meaning if a user has any Facebook app installed on their iPhone, then Facebook accesses and analyses the photos the user takes and/or stores on the iPhone, the complainant alleges.