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Facebook Messenger App: Is the Backlash Fair?
Posted on August 21st 2014
Now, it goes without saying that Facebook is one of the more controversial social networks, but their recent effort to force people to install their standalone Messenger app has angered users more than ever before. The social media giant announced the split from their main Facebook app back in April, but the actual change only came into place earlier this month.
However, it’s not just the inconvenience of installing yet another app that has got Facebook’s mobile users all riled up, but more the privacy concerns that have been highlighted in the app’s Terms of Service.
Some users took to the app store reviews to vent their frustration about the app, blasting it for being allowed to send texts and make calls on the users’ phone devices.
The app can also – according to the Terms of Service – find accounts on users’ phones, read contacts, take pictures and videos, record audio, download files and change network connectivity – all without notifying the user.
The full list of access requirements on an Android phone are as follows (iOS requirements are slightly different):
- Find accounts on the device.
- Read your own contact card.
- Read your contacts.
- Your approximate and precise location.
- Edit, receive and read your text messages.
- Directly call phone numbers.
- Read call log.
- Test access to protected storage.
- Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage.
- Take pictures and videos.
- Record audio.
- View Wi-Fi connections.
- Read phone status and identity.
- Receive data from internet.
- Download files without notification.
- Run at startup.
- Prevent device from sleeping.
- View network connections.
- Install shortcuts.
- Change your audio settings.
- Read Google service configuration.
- Draw over other apps.
- Full network access.
- Read sync settings.
- Control vibration.
Scary stuff, right?! Well, not really. The Messenger app isn’t actually any more invasive than the main app, with the only difference being that Android users are told up-front about the requirements of access when they launch the Messenger app.
This has led to scaremongering as the list of requirements does read a bit like something out of a George Orwell novel, but it’s only the same sort of access required by regular messaging apps, and really, Facebook are the good guys for a change for being so up-front about what they need to access on your phone when you launch the app.
Facebook tried to put the record straight themselves in a blog post saying: “If you install the Messenger app, you should see a screen letting you know that the app is asking for your permission to access information or use features from your Android phone or tablet. Almost all apps need certain permissions to run on Android, and we use these permissions to run features in the app. Keep in mind that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they’re named doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them.”
The social network also went on to explain how these accesses would be used offering examples of each.
So, Facebook aren’t going to use the Messenger app to spy on you or collect data on you, but to function as a properly-integrated messaging app.
The app needs permission to use your phone’s microphone and camera for voice calling and video and picture messaging. The app can only edit/receive/send or read SMS messages so it can confirm that you’ve added a phone number to your Facebook account via an SMS confirmation code.
It needs to be able to make calls so you can call a Messenger contact straight from the app, and it also needs to read your contacts if you choose to add your phone contacts to your Messenger app.
So, for once Facebook aren’t trying to collect data on us, or track us, but are simply being forced by Android to be up-front about the total phone access their Messenger app requires – so we can all calm down and stop worrying about the app…for now!
What do you think? Is the app’s access requirements fair or will you still be deleting the app to protect yourself?