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Lengthy list of permissions causes Facebook app worries

Users say they fear Facebook messaging app will invade their privacy.
By MAE ANDERSON, Associated Press Published: August 12, 2014
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— Facebook’s recent effort to force people to adopt its standalone mobile messaging app has privacy-concerned users up in arms. Many of them believe the app is especially invasive.

One blog from the Huffington Post published in December has gone viral, making the rounds on the social network recently because it claims the app gives Facebook “direct control over your mobile device” and allows Facebook to call phone numbers without a user’s intervention and send text messages without confirmation, but none of that is accurate.

In truth, Facebook Messenger isn’t any more invasive than Facebook’s main app —or other similar applications.

The fear and confusion stem from a message that greets owners of Android devices when they install the app. It explains that the app requires permission access to the device’s camera, microphone, 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 you 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: play.google.com/store/apps/details?idcom.facebook.orca. Click “view details” under Permissions.

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Facebook

gets support

— Facebook’s fight against New York City prosecutors over 381 search warrants for users’ postings and other data is drawing support from other social media companies.

Lawyers for Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, and Tumblr said Monday they’re seeking to join the clash on Facebook’s side. Attorney Richard Holwell says it’s increasingly crucial to protect user privacy.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties union also are backing Facebook.

The warrants were issued during a disabilities-benefit fraud investigation. Facebook ultimately turned over the information but is appealing the court order that required it to do so.

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