Facebook Messenger: What You Need to Know About the Privacy Concerns
By Small Screen Producer. Publish on August 25, 2014.
Facebook announced that it would be splitting its messaging service back in April and it looks like changes have finally rolled out to all users worldwide. However, there have been rising concerns on the privacy of this new app that have resulted in users flocking to app stores to complain; even experts weighing in as well. It seems that Facebook has unearthed a big question “how much privacy are users willing to sacrifice for social connections?” While there are some confusing speculations on what exactly is going on, we're going to break it down for you.
Here’s What’s Going On
Currently, when users go to “messages” on the Facebook mobile app, they will be asked to download the Messenger app on their mobile device in order to send private messages to Facebook friends. This Messenger app has been available for some time, but is now has recently become mandatory for every Facebook user who would like to use the messaging service that Facebook provides. Per Huffington Post, Messenger can do the following:
- Change the state of network connectivity
- Call phone numbers and send SMS messages
- Record audio, take pictures and videos, at anytime
- Read your phone's call logs, including info about incoming and outgoing calls
- Read contact data, including who you call and email and how often
- Read personal profile information stored on your device
- Access the phone features of the device, like phone number and device ID
- Get a list of accounts known by phone or other apps you use.
The complaints over the privacy concerns arose after it was learned that the app, especially on Android devices, were asking for a whole slew of permissions. This includes the ability to read SMS text messages, access phone call logs and access the photo gallery on mobile devices. A Huffington Post article covering this issue went viral this month, followed by articles from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Snopes.com. This has caused a whirlwind of rants and complaints from users that have resulted in 800,000 one-star ratings for the app on the Apple app store. Misinformation and distrust have knocked back and forth fueling recent heavy gripes and making Facebook basically look really bad.
Facebook Eases Concerns
Despite the flux of rumors and details that have surfaced about the issue, it seems, when it comes down to it, that the issue is not much worse than what you would experience downloading any other mobile app. Facebook addressed the concerns in a recent blog post that stated that the terms were based on a standard practice implemented not only by Facebook, but by many others.
Private policies have been enacted for forever, but it seems that complaints are coming from the same people who are sharing extra heavy details, posting photos, and event invitations on Facebook anyway. Even as Facebook evolves into a more sophisticated platform and users complain about privacy issues, people are still going to continue to use Facebook as a social tool. And that’s that.
Policies, Terms, and Conditions
As the saying goes, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. If we are concerned with terms and conditions, we should read the fine print, all the time, every time. That probably explains why users are so upset; most of use blindly trust and assume that the terms are in our best interest and agree to terms of conditions we prefer to be completely unaware of.
Remember a recent story that revealed that Facebook was conducting experiments on their news feed? It seems that the company remains unconcerned about the amount of data they are accessing for market research.
The Question Remains
As technology grows, the digital age will have the answer the question, once again, how much are willing to pay to be connected? The internet and social networking allows us to remain connected but at the cost of privacy, which some are apparently willing to pay and many who are not. The big concern shouldn’t really be a concern at all. Facebook, much like many other mobile apps out there, accesses parts of your mobile phone to enhance usability, including location tracking.
It’s business as usual for Facebook to find if you’re closer to a Shipley’s or a Duncan Donuts so they can place the right ads on your News Feed. Who knows, maybe there will be a point in this information age where regulation and restrictions will be placed. Until then, if you are really concerned about privacy, it will require you to read the terms and decide for yourself whether or not you’ll agree to it or not.
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