Is Facebook’s New Messenger App an Invasion of Privacy?

By: Jodi Phillips, Web Editor
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Facebook (credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Facebook (credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

If you’re like much of America, you use Facebook as a means of keeping up with family, friends and Hollywood.  One of the perks of using the Facebook app is the instant messaging portion in ‘Messages’ which allows you to talk freely with others.

It’s always been an option to download their third-party app Facebook Messenger to chat, but soon it will be mandatory if you want to converse with your friends via Facebook.

What many people don’t realize is by downloading the app, you grant Facebook permission to do a multitude of things like call phone numbers, send SMS messages, record audio, take pictures and read personal profile information stored on your phone.

These are snippets of the Terms of Service for the new Facebook Messenger app, via Huffington Post:

Allows the app to change the state of network connectivity – The app can turn your phone connections on and off without telling you.

Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation – The app can call phone numbers within your call log without your permission.  If you have paid minutes, this will count against them.

Allows the app to send SMS messages. This may result in unexpected charges. Malicious apps may cost you money by sending messages without your confirmation – The app can message anyone it likes without asking your permission and cost you money if you don’t have a texting plan.

Allows the app to record audio with microphone – This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation

Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera – This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.

Allows the app to read you phone’s call log, including data about incoming and outgoing calls. This permission allows apps to save your call log data, and malicious apps may share call log data without your knowledge.

Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals

Allows the app to read personal profile information stored on your device, such as your name and contact information. This means the app can identify you and may send your profile information to others.

Allows the app to access the phone features of the device – This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.

Allows the app to get a list of accounts known by the phone – This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed, such as Instagram, Vine, Twitter and more.

Using free apps has always been a popular feature for smartphones, but these “free” apps use your personal information to sell location, geo-targetting and more in order to target ads to the phone.

But, while people are struggling to accept these “intrusive” permissions, it’s easily explainable.

Facebook asks to access your pictures, videos, contacts, text messages and accounts for the purpose of using these features when the user needs them.  For example, Facebook will ask to access your contacts so in the Facebook app, you can contact and call Facebook friends via their filed mobile numbers.

Another example is accessing multiple accounts on your phone so they can cross post between services like Instagram and Twitter.

Millions of Facebook users have already downloaded the app either without reading the Terms of Service or not caring about the invasion of privacy.  Ultimately, the decision is up to the user on whether or not to use the app.

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