Facebook Messenger App: Friend or Foe?

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I’ve been hearing a lot about the “new” Facebook messenger app that people are forced to download if they want to keep chatting it up with friends on Facebook. First off, the app isn’t really new at all. It’s been out since 2011, but Facebook is trying to make people have to download it so they can diversify their content to stay relevant and avoid ending up like Myspace.

But that’s all besides the point.

The real issue is what the app makes you give up – which is a lot of private information. I’d be willing to bet that 0% of people that download any app go through and read all the terms and conditions. I know I’ve never done that, and honestly I never plan to. Well in the terms and conditions you agree to when you download the messenger app you agree to give Facebook access to all your pictures, videos, the microphone on your phone, and even the camera. You’re basically giving away control of your entire smartphone.

I don’t know about you guys, but that doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.

To let you know exactly what you are giving apps access to here is a list of Android’s current permissions group:

In-app Purchases

An app can ask you to make purchases inside the app.

Device & app history

An app can use one or more of the following:

  • Read sensitive log data
  • Retrieve system internal state
  • Read your web bookmarks and history
  • Retrieve running apps

Cellular Data Settings

An app can use settings that control your mobile data connection and potentially the data you receive.

Identity

An app can use your account and/or profile information on your device. Identity access may include the ability to:

  • Find accounts on the device
  • Read your own contact card (example: name and contact information)
  • Modify your own contact card
  • Add or remove accounts

Contacts/Calendar

An app can use your device’s contacts and/or calendar information. Contacts and calendar access may include the ability to:

  • Read your contacts
  • Modify your contacts
  • Read calendar events plus confidential information
  • Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge

Location

An app can use your device’s location. Location access may include:

  • Approximate location (network-based)
  • Precise location (GPS and network-based)
  • Access extra location provider commands
  • GPS access

SMS

An app can use your device’s text messaging (SMS) and/or multimedia media messaging service (MMS). This group may include the ability to use text, picture, or video messages. Note: Depending on your plan, you may be charged by your carrier for text or multimedia messages. SMS access may include the ability to:

  • Receive text messages (SMS)
  • Read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
  • Receive text messages (MMS, like a picture or video message)
  • Edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)
  • Send SMS messages; this may cost you money
  • Receive text messages (WAP)

Phone

An app can use your phone and/or its call history. Note: Depending on your plan, you may be charged by your carrier for phone calls. Phone access may include the ability to:

  • Directly call phone numbers; this may cost you money
  • Write call log (example: call history)
  • Read call log
  • Reroute outgoing calls
  • Modify phone state
  • Make calls without your intervention

Photos/Media/Files

An app can use files or data stored on your device. Photos/Media/Files access may include the ability to:

  • Read the contents of your USB storage (example: SD card)
  • Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
  • Format external storage
  • Mount or unmount external storage

Camera/Microphone

An app can use your device’s camera and/or microphone. Camera and microphone access may include the ability to:

  • Take pictures and videos
  • Record audio
  • Record video

Wi-Fi Connection Information

An app can access your device’s Wi-Fi connection information, like if Wi-Fi is turned on and the name(s) of connected devices. Wi-Fi connection information access may include the ability to:

  • View Wi-Fi Connections

Device ID & Call Information

An app can access your device ID(s), phone number, whether you’re on the phone, and the number connected by a call. Device ID & call information may include the ability to:

  • Read phone status and identity

Conclusion?

So whenever you download a “free” app, you are actually paying for it by giving them your personal information like your name, location, browsing history, etc. The apps are able to give you these apps for “free” because they in turn sell your information to the highest bidder in the form of advertising. So you can be the judge you can be the judge of how “connected” you really need to be with Facebook and their messenger app. I mean if you really need to talk to someone is it really that hard to pick up the phone and call them.

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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