Live

Watch CBSN Live

Facebook users: Beware of autoplay data charges

Some Facebook users have discovered that a feature of the social media site may be responsible for racking up unexpected charges on their mobile phone bills.

Simply perusing your News Feed on the Facebook mobile app on your phone can take a toll on data usage because the site's videos autoplay by default. Pause on a post with video, and it starts to play whether you clicked on it or not. However, Facebook says users can avoid that drain on their data consumption with just a few setting changes.

The issue was first spotted by the U.K. consumer website MoneySavingExpert.com. Tracking a recent surge in hefty data charges, the site solicited feedback from its social media community to determine the root of the problem.

"We've seen many complaints from people who have been stung with data bills after exceeding their monthly allowance and who believe it to be because of Facebook autoplaying videos," the site reported this week.

In its data research, MoneySavingExpert.com's staff found that mobile users who logged into their Facebook on an internet browser did not activate the autoplay feature, only those who used the mobile app.

Facebook confirmed to CBS News that the autoplay feature is enabled on both the mobile app and desktop -- but that it consumes "very little data" if people just scroll past videos. "Only if people stop to watch the video do they consume more data," a Facebook representative said. "We want to make sure that videos consume as little data as possible and that people can control what they play automatically."

To avoid extra data charges entirely, users can easily turn the autoplay feature off in settings in their mobile and desktop devices. Facebook says that there is also an option so videos only auto-play when a user is connected to WiFi.

While the cases unearthed by MoneySavingExpert.com involved users in Britain, Facebook confirms that the same issues apply to users in the U.S.

"We looked at data cost in each country and bandwidth availability to determine the default setting so it was appropriate for the local country. People still have access to all the settings in all countries," Facebook confirmed.

Concerns over data charges rise as autoplay video ads, first tested less than a year ago, become more common and as certain social media trends -- namely the Ice Bucket Challenge -- populate News Feeds around the globe with more and more video content.

Less than a month ago, Facebook announced that 2.4 million videos related to the Ice Bucket Challenge have been shared its site.

View CBS News In