Are You Giving Up Your Privacy to Facebook Messenger?

facebook messengerFacebook has never been the most privacy-focused organization. The social network’s notoriously tricky privacy policies have come under fire again as users uncover the Facebook Messenger app’s prying terms — but is the backlash warranted?

It’s true; the app’s terms allow Facebook to text, take photos and videos and listen in on conversations between users. The controversy heightens as users are already displeased with Facebook’s force transition strategy to the mobile messaging app. With more than a billion downloads, many users are likely unaware of the rather creepy conditions they just agreed to.

Sam Fiorella of the Huffington Post highlights the most intrusive of Facebook Messenger’s terms:

    • Allows the app to change the state of network connectivity.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 your 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.

While Android users must accept all terms before use, iPhone users have the leeway to agree to only certain conditions — making the iPhone app ideal for those concerned with privacy.

To be fair, Facebook’s intent is likely innocent. As with numerous other apps, Facebook wants their services to be more convenient so they ask for preapproval of common actions (photo, video, voice and text).

Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post reports on a few more apps with some pretty cringe-worthy terms:

WeatherBug requests permission to view your Wi-Fi network and other devices connected to it; RunKeeper wants permission to read your contacts and call log; even the Kim Kardashian game, which is all the rage these days, logs your location, your device ID, and your incoming calls.”

The amount of access apps have is shocking, but the real problem arises when you take into account the vulnerability of hacking and malware.

While examining Facebook Messenger’s terms, did you notice the repetitive acknowledgment of malicious apps? Hackers are constantly prowling the web in search of personal information and it’s not uncommon for social media sites to be a prime target of cybercriminals.

In December 2013, Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn were all victims of a major data breach that compromised 2 million passwords. If your information is exposed because of a breach, it can have detrimental effects on your personal identity, social identity and financial wellbeing.

What should you do?

Always read the terms and conditions before you download anything. If you feel that the terms are too invasive, don’t download the app. Protect yourself by changing your password frequently and never share the following, information even when using private messaging services:

  • Full name
  • Full birthdate
  • Address
  • Financial information
  • Place of work
  • School
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license
  • License plate
  • Anything you wouldn’t
    tell a complete stranger

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

John is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands. He is a Certified Compliance...
Read more about John Burcham.

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