Back to Blog • Posted on October 13, 2014 by admin
The Facebook Messenger App is a native mobile app that gives the user access to Facebook’s instant messaging service without the the need to visit the social network’s website or access the full version of the Facebook mobile app. Since its release in 2014, the terms of service and app permissions required to use the messenger has been the subject of controversy, concern, and confusion for Facebook users.
By installing the Facebook Messenger App, the user agrees to give the app a wide set of privileges on their device, including the ability to log phone calls, access contacts list, make phone calls, send SMS messages, change the network connection status, take pictures and videos, and record audio at any time. Naturally, granting these broad permissions to any app can make a user nervous. Often, unnecessarily broad permissions are a sign that an app is malware or spyware. Facebook is a legitimate and widely used service, so it is doubtful that there are malicious intentions behind the app permissions. On the other hand, Facebook does have a history of raising privacy concerns.
There are two important things to know about the permissions required by the Facebook Messenger App. First, they are very broad and the user is placing their trust in Facebook to not abuse these privileges. Second, these permissions are necessary for the app to function and there is no evidence that they are being used to spy on users.
The most creepy permission is probably the ability to record audio and video. All this means is that the app has permission to use these features of the operating system in order to send voice and video messages. While these permissions could be used to spy on users, they are also necessary to do anything involving audio or video. The same is true of access to the microphone.
The other permissions that have caused concern is the ability to read contacts lists and view other accounts on the device. These may not be strictly needed by a messaging app, but they can be convenient. These permissions allow the messenger to be used to chat with people in the contacts list without having to manually import them into the app. While this may not be essential, it is very convenient and almost every messenger app on the market does this.
Given the amount of personal information kept on mobile devices, the permissions required by the Facebook Messenger App can be unsettling, but there is no reason to believe they are being abused. It may be comforting to know that companies like Facebook are subject to a great deal of scrutiny. If they were using the app permissions to spy on users, security researchers would almost certainly have uncovered it immediately.