The Real Problem about Facebook Messenger & Its Interesting Terms

Let’s paint a scenario. A stranger comes to you and says, “I need your full name, date of birth, phone number, your family’s contact information, among others”, how would you react? We’d all probably run and/or call the police.

But unknowingly, this has happened to millions of us, and we all agreed without question. In fact, we were excited about giving all this information away.

Why? How?


Two weeks ago, Facebook caused a lot of frustration to their users after making ‘Facebook Messenger’ compulsory for all mobile and tablet users. Without the separate app, users would not be able to access their messages. It’s a seemingly strange move for Facebook whom prides themselves on creating exceptional user experiences. This new messenger app doesn’t add to the user experience… and quite frankly it’s rather annoying having to move between apps. So why did they do it?

Following the update, an article released by Huffington Post explaining the terms and conditions accompanied by the download of the app went viral. In their post, they mentioned that installing Facebook Messenger allows Facebook to do the following:

  • Read sensitive log data
  • Read your web bookmarks and history
  • Use settings that control your mobile data connection and potentially the data you receive.
  • Read and modify your own contact card
  • Read and modify your contacts
  • Access your precise location
  • Read & send your text messages
  • Call phone numbers
  • Read the contents of your USB storage (photos, videos)
  • Record audio & videos of you
  • Others

Looking at these permissions, it’s no wonder everyone freaked out, uninstalling the app, and leaving both Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps with bad reviews in the app store.

Noticing this, Mashable made a blog response breaking down the terms of Facebook Messenger in detail, and added that “the articles’ authors seem to not understand how Android’s app permissions work,” referring to Sam Fiorella, author of the Huffington post.

Mashable post made it simpler for the readers to understand the terms. They explained, for example, the following:

What it’s asking for:
find accounts on the device
read your own contact card

If you already have Facebook installed on your phone, the messenger app can grab the account information already on your device. It can also read the contact card you have created for yourself within Android.
In other words, it can let you sign in to Facebook Messenger with the Facebook account already on your phone.

What it’s asking for:
take pictures and videos
record audio

So you can send photos to users from within Facebook and record audio messages. Without the ability to record audio, your videos would be silent.

I’m glad Mashable explained the terms in a fair and easy way to understand. They also made it clear that terms such as these aren’t new, and are the same terms accompanying other applications we download.

So I wondered, should this make us all feel at ease now? I feel like we’re missing the point here.

For me, the real question is how much these FREE apps really cost; how much information we’re giving to these companies/marketers. They basically know every moment of our lives. In fact, here is a blog post about 80 personal things this social media giants knows about most of us right now. Really this new Facebook messenger app and it’s new permissions isn’t anything new. Maybe it’s just a bit more obvious to the everyday user.

Our blog about the “Dark Side of Big Data” explains just how dangerous this situation can be, with nobody regulating how how our data is used. We mentioned about Facebook’s recent behavioural experiment where they selected around 700,000 profiles, split them down the middle, half got only happy information and the other got sad and disturbing information into their news feeds.

The result of this experiment was that Facebook was able to prove that by altering our media consumption, our version of reality becomes very different.

When a company with billions of users have this magnitude of power, how can we stay still?

Should we remove all our apps, throw our phone and computers, and return to caveman ways? No, of course not… Well maybe, but it’s not realistic. Our power lies in EDUCATION – in educating ourselves of the things we give up to receive something “FREE”.

How about you? Did you panic when they made Facebook messenger a requirement? Do you plan to learn more about the terms of the apps you install on your phone from now on? Let me know in the comments below.

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