Facebook Messenger: Much ado about nothing

Facebook Messenger: Much ado about nothing

Summary: Yes, Facebook Messenger wants to know all about you. What did you expect? It's a Facebook app!


Enough already with all the whining about Facebook Messenger, Facebook's new standalone mobile messaging app!  It's Facebook! They make their money from watching everything you do on the net! What did you expect their new messaging-only app to do?

Facebook Messenger: No less, nor no more, respecting of your privacy than ever.

If you're late to this tempest in a teapot, in April, Facebook announced it would kill off the chat feature in its Android, Windows Phone, and iOS apps. Instead, it would require users to download Facebook Messenger to chat with friends. Facebook argued that the reason for this move is that the Messenger app is 20 percent faster then messaging using the all-in-one Facebook app.

Besides speeding up your messaging, the latest Facebook Messenger app also lets users send photos and make free Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) calls to your Facebook friends. In short, it's just another app-based instant messaging client with VoIP. It's not all that different from the Google Hangouts app or any of a dozen other IM apps. 

Why all the upset?

Well for starters Facebook requires you to add this new app.

Change! We are so scared of change. You'd think with Facebook we'd be used to it by now. It feels like they change their interface and privacy rules with every new moon. 

The problem is that you can still use Facebook messaging without Facebook Messenger. All you have to do is use your smartphone or tablet Web browser and go to Facebook's mobile site. That's it. No fuss, no muss.

Related: Six ways to protect yourself from the NSA and other eavesdroppers

More concretely, people are ticked off that Facebook is demanding a lot of permissions from your device. These include using your microphone, looking at your contact list, "snooping" on your text messages, and tracking your location.

Guys, guys, guys. Facebook uses the microphone for VoIP and voice-recordings. What do you expect it to use?

The contact list? Hello! How you can talk to your "friends," if the app doesn't know who your friends are?

As for peeking at your texts, how do you think texting works anyway? Texts do not fly from one phone to another without stopping. Instead they go to an Short Message Service (SMS) server where they may or may not be archived. For example in 2010, Verizon kept texts for up to five days. It hasn't got any better since then. 

Last, but not least, many applications track your locations now. Of course, Facebook want to know if you're closer to a McDonalds or a Starbucks. Facebook lives and dies by advertising and they want to know every last thing they can about us. 

In short, this is business as usual for Facebook. If you really care about your privacy you shouldn't be on Facebook period.

You do know, for example, that if you're a Facebook member Facebook tracks you on other Web sites?

Here's the simple truth: Facebook, and its apps, have never been private. All that's happening with Facebook Messenger is that people are, once more, realizing how little privacy they have online. In a month, no one will remember any of this and you'll be messaging with your friends and colleagues the same as always.

There's nothing new about this. I first wrote about IM privacy issues in 2001 when mobile computing meant a five pound laptop running Windows XP or an Apple iBook.

You say you want IM, VoIP, and video-conferencing with real privacy? Then, just like in 2001, you need to run your own such services with programs such as IBM Sametime, BigAnt, Microsoft Lync, or an Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP)-based, open-source instant messaging servers such as Openfire or Prosody. If you use any public IM or texting network, you are vulnerable to its provider's privacy whims.

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Topics: Mobility, Privacy, Security, Social Enterprise

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  • " If you really care about your privacy you shouldn't be on Facebook"

    Wise words m8, wise words ...
    • Yep...

      ...and precisely why I do not use Farcebook...or ANY other of these lame "social networking" sites.
    • Google is the big one

      Facebook is basically a blogging platform and you expect things to seen by others. Google is the big slime scanning all the things that have an expectation of privacy.
      Buster Friendly
      • Just a bitter person

        “Haters gonna hate” -Abe Lincoln
  • I dont trust Facebook!

    I have mine locked down as tightly as I can. I don't trust what FB says when they say they are not snooping on people. This is the same company that altered 600,000 + users' News Feeds for a psychology experiment. Simply put, they have a horrible mobile app and every update is worse than the one before. Fix your mobile app 1st before you force people to download another one of your crappy apps which i'm sure is already crappy.

    The whole point of the article is "You get what you pay for". And in Facebook you pay nothing, so you get what Facebook's revenue sources pay for. And that is knowing your every move, in the physical world and on the WEB. I have been saying this for years and all I get is "Facebook doesn't work the way I think it should". Hello!
  • Whining and complaining

    has become the new favorite pastime in America these days. Last I checked no one is required to use FB. In the immortal words of nancy reagan; "Just say no" to FB and move on with your life. You can exist without FB, it's not that hard. Millions of us do.
    • Low_tech: "no one is required to use FB"

      You need to keep up. Facebook maintains shadow profiles for individuals that have not signed up for Facebook.

      Thus, even if one eschews Facebook, one can have a Facebook profile.

      [Note to Buster: This practice by Facebook is slimy.]
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • No, you don't

        No, you don't need to keep up with the latest conspiracy theory.
        Buster Friendly
      • shadow profile. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        LMFAO... And JFK and Elvis live together in the mountains.
        • Here 'ya go


          From the linked article: "Facebook is compiling "frightening" dossiers on everyone possible, including people without Facebook accounts"

          There's more ZDNet coverage regarding Facebook's shadow profiles if you can bother to educate yourself.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
  • The problem isn't Facebook—it's Android, and by extension Google.

    To begin with permissions on Android are binary, you either give the app all the permissions it asks for or you don't install it. Second, the permissions are just ham-handed, "[k]eep in mind that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they’re named doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them.” (source: http://bgr.com/2014/08/12/facebook-messenger-for-android-permissions-explained/). Asking me to grant permissions whose name doesn't reflect the way the permission is used is just dumb, cio. Third, should I need to grant an app permission to take a picture when I press a "take a picture button"? A normal human would conclude that since I'm explicitly taking an action I implicitly provide permission. What I'm not doing is granting an app the ability to take a picture, or do anything else, without explicit permission. That's where this transcends from privacy to security.
  • I don't do Facebook, Twitter, or anything Google...

    ,,,and am surviving just fine! Reading articles like this makes me smile a lot.
    • Wow

      Wow, you're just so cool. I'm just so impressed.
      Buster Friendly
      • Aw, shucks.

        It 'twernt nothin'.
  • WinPhone

    On WP it's still optional - as in the FB app suggests you install and use it bit lets you skip that and just keep using the FB app.

    Also had a couple of friends do this whole freak out thing - but they were on Android so I politely explained that they shouldn't worry as using Android means their privacy is hosed anyway by Google - so they should just strap in and enjoy the ride with their FB stuff ha ha :)
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