Facebook Experiments with Flash Calls

Meta, the new name of the business which runs Facebook, has told users of their Facebook Lite app that they are ‘enabling’ flash calls as a new method for two-factor authentication. Per a corporate blog written on March 15:

As part of our efforts to provide an even better experience we are introducing a new way for users to more easily authenticate their account. Specifically we are enabling users to authenticate their accounts with a missed call, in addition to manually entering an OTP sent via other methods.

Phone users need to give the app permission to manage calls and review entries in the call log.

After granting the following two permissions (1) call-log access and (2) call management, users will be able to seamlessly log in to their account without the need for manually entering an OTP.

Meta alluded to the fact that flash calling may not be available in some countries, but did not provide a specific list. Facebook Lite is an Android app that is designed to work with older phones and limited data connections, making it likely to be more popular in countries where many consumers continue to rely on 2G networks.

Despite the emphasis on the user experience, Meta’s motivation for switching to flash calls will be to save money on A2P SMS messages sent for two-factor authentication. The cost of A2P SMS messages varies significantly from region to region, so Meta has likely calculated that Facebook Lite is most popular in countries where A2P SMS is relatively expensive.

Elon Musk recently caused a brouhaha by switching off two-factor authentication by SMS for non-paying Twitter users. Musk said the change was required to stop Twitter being ripped off by bots that generate artificial SMS traffic from bogus accounts, though the new policy will also save money on SMS messages created by legitimate users too. Meta has spied an opportunity to follow Twitter’s lead whilst allowing their rival to suffer the bulk of media criticism.

Communications providers that have grown complacent about the profits generated from A2P SMS will be deeply concerned about the implications of a large scale transition to flash calls. Many are examining the possibility of selectively blocking flash calls so they can be monetized, but this may not be straightforward depending upon the legal and political environment in which they operate.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.