Facebook: we can read your text messages, but we don't

Is Facebook getting too nosey?

The Sunday Times has alleged that Facebook has been reading users' text messages.

In the report, the paper claims that Facebook "admitted" to reading text messages via the Facebook mobile app during testing prodedures for a new messaging service.

The latest privacy furore comes in the wake of the Path address book uploading and Google's browser security measure evasion.

"No reading of user text messages"

Facebook responded to the Sunday Times' allegation, telling Business Insider the following:

"There is no reading of user text messages.

"On the Android App store, the Facebook app permissions include SMS read/write.

"The reason it is on there is because we have done some testing (not with the general public) of products that require the SMS part of the phone to talk to the Facebook App. That's what the read&write refers to – the line of communication needed to integrate the two things.

"Lots of communications apps use these permissions. Think of all those apps that act as replacements to the build-in sms software.

"That's not necessarily what we're working on. SMS can be used for carrier billing (where users opt to pay for things like apps through their phone bill). Again – that's not to say we're launching this. It's just an example of why an app might use these permissions. The Sunday Times leap to the conclusion that is was a messaging feature.

"Anyway – we have yet to make any such features available to the public. (so the Sunday Times is completely wrong when it says Facebook is reading people's SMS. Wrong on the terminology, and wrong on the suggestion that it has been implemented).

"Just for our own testing"

The company finishes its statement by agreeing that it is right that the SMS access permission is flagged up on Android phones before installation: "Facebook is right to insert this into the Android app permissions – because yes, the app technically has the capability to integrate with the phone's SMS system – even if that is just for our own testing."

So at least Facebook asks for access to text messages when its app is downloaded, but as users become more wary of what information they are giving up to apps, companies could start to think twice about asking users to lay bare their mobiles for the sake of a spot of testing.