True Facebook’s recent effort to force people to adopt its standalone mobile messaging app has privacy-concerned users up in arms. After some research many users believe the app is especially invasive – Truth is Facebook Messenger isn’t any more invasive than Facebook’s main app —or other similar applications.
There is some fear and confusion as the app requires permission access to the device’s camera to take pictures and videos, record audio with microphone, call phone numbers without your intervention, access your list of contacts and other information.
Here’s what Facebook’s mobile messaging app does and doesn’t do:
Myth: You have to use the Messenger app if you want to send messages to your Facebook friends.
Reality: While it’s required to download if you are using Facebook’s mobile app on the iPhone or Android smartphones, you can avoid it if use the Facebook messenger service on your desktop or laptop, iPad or even the mobile Facebook website.
Myth: The Facebook Messenger app’s terms of service are different from —and more intrusive than— Facebook’s own official terms.
Reality: Facebook’s terms of service are the same for all its mobile apps, including the main Facebook app. You can read it here: m.facebook.com/policies. What’s upsetting people is the list of “permissions” they see when they download and install the app on an Android phone. It’s a long list with 10 items, each of which states that the app needs access to features on your phone including contacts, calendar, location data and Wi-Fi information. Sure, that’s a lot of personal data. But it’s the same data most messaging apps have access to. On the iPhone, users don’t get the list of permissions when they install the app, but when they use it, permissions pop up individually. You can view the app’s list of permissions here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.orca. Click “view details” under Permissions.
Myth: Facebook’s Messenger app will use your phone’s microphone to record you.
Reality: The app needs permission to use your phone’s microphone and camera. But it requires that access because the microphone is needed for voice calling, a service that the standalone app offers that the Facebook app doesn’t, and sending sound with videos. Same with the camera, it needs access if you want to send your friends pictures.
Myth: Facebook will direct the app to send SMS, or text, messages without your permission.
Reality: One of the permissions does say 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.
The bottom line is that, while some users might think downloading a separate app for a feature that was once included in a single app is giving up a significant amount of additional privacy in the process – it’s not true. It’s not Facebook Messenger’s intention to record audio or take a photo without being initiated but once you give permission for the app to do so automatically, what’s to stop a hacker or other app from doing so?
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