Users are in upset over the privacy-concerns of Facebook’s standalone mobile messaging app that they have been pushing on people recently.
Back in December a blog was published in the Huffington Post which has since gone viral. The blog claims that the app provides Facebook with “direct control over your mobile device.” It inaccurately asserts that through the app Facebook can make phone calls and send text messages from one’s mobile device without the consent or intervention of the user.
The reality is that the Facebook Messenger is no more invasive than any other similar application or Facebook’s main app. The panic came from a message that pops up when the app is installed on an Android device. It requests permission to access the device’s camera, microphone, list of contacts and other various information.
Here are the truths and lies about Facebook’s mobile messaging app.
FALSE: The Messenger app is needed to send messages to your Facebook friends.
TRUE: On the iPhone and Android smartphones it requires downloading if you are using Facebook’s mobile app, but on your desktop or laptop, iPad or even the mobile Facebook website you can avoid using the Facebook messenger service.
FALSE: The terms of service for the Facebook Messenger app are different from -and more intrusive than- Facebook’s own official terms.
TRUE: All Facebook mobile apps have the same terms of service, including the main Facebook app. The terms can be read at: m.facebook.com/policies. The distress is motivated by the long list of “permissions” that appear on an Android phone when the app is downloaded and installed. The list contains 10 items including features on your phone ranging from contacts, calendar, location data and Wi-Fi information, all of which the app states it needs access to. It does seem like a lot of personal information, but it is no more than any other messaging app has access to. The permissions list doesn’t pop all at once on when the app is installed on the iPhone, but rather gradually pop up individually. To see the list of permissions for the Facebook messenger app, go to: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.orca, and click “view details” under Permissions.
FALSE: You will be recorded through your phone’s microphone by Facebook’s Messenger app.
TRUE: The app does need permission to use your phone’s microphone and camera, but the access to the microphone is needed to send sound with videos and for voice calling, which is a service not offered by the Facebook app that the standalone app provides. The same reasoning applies to the camera access, which is needed to send your friends pictures.
FALSE: Facebook will direct the app, without your permission, to send SMS, or text, messages.
TRUE: One of the permissions does state that Facebook can edit, receive, read and send SMS messages. But the company says the reason it wants to send and receive SMS messages is so that if you add a phone number to your Messenger account, you can confirm by a confirmation code that Facebook sends via text message.
FALSE: The Messenger app is new.
TRUE: Facebook’s Messenger app has been in existence since 2011. In Europe, users started being required to download and install the app back in April if they wanted to send messages to Facebook friends. The company said two weeks ago, that they would expand the requirement to other parts of the world. Facebook claims users are being forced to make the switch for their own good, because the standalone app has more features; including a selfie cam, stickers, the app runs faster and can be used to reach non-Facebook users on your contact list.