Update: Facebook is denying claims raised by a British newspaper that reported it had read text messages of people who downloaded the Facebook app to their smartphones.

The London Sunday Times is reporting that Facebook read text messages of users who downloaded the social network's smartphone app.

The story is behind a paywall, but Fox News summarized the article and said Facebook admitted to reading text messages as part of a trial to launch its own messaging service. It is not clear whether Facebook has discontinued the practice.

We've asked Facebook for comment and will update when we hear back from them. Update: But the company did respond to a request for comment from the Verge, telling the tech news site that the "suggestion is ridiculous." The statement from an unnamed Facebook spokesperson said:

"The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorizing but the suggestion that we're secretly reading people's texts is ridiculous. Instead, the permission is clearly disclosed on the app page in the Android marketplace and is in anticipation of new features that enable users to integrate Facebook features with their texts. However, other than some very limited testing, we haven't launched anything so we're not using the permission. If we do, it will be obvious to users what's happening. We'll keep you posted on our progress."

"Your personal information is a precious commodity, and companies will go to great lengths to get their hands on as much of it as possible," Emma Draper, of the Privacy International campaign group, told the London Times.

Facebook, according to the report, joins several high-profile Web firms that have been caught snooping on their customers. Flickr, dating site Badoo and Yahoo Messenger have all been accused of accessing users' private data, and YouTube can remotely access and operate a smartphone's camera, security experts told the Times. My Remote Lock and the app Tennis Juggling Game have the ability to intercept phone calls.