Facebook Intrudes on Privacy Once Again

Scott Calonico

dislikeFacebook certainly seem to do plenty to upset people when it comes to privacy, and yet somehow one never seems to see large groups of friends leaving the social network in droves.

It seems clear that people’s desire to communicate with (or keep an eye on) other people trumps their security fears. Also, for many, the need to maintain contact with Facebook groups or manage Facebook business pages keeps them married to the service, even if they’re becoming a little uncomfortable with the company’s practices.

Now, however, Facebook have made some changes to their mobile Messenger app that should be enough to rattle even the most committed devotees of the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” argument.

According to the Huffington Post, the terms and conditions of the latest Facebook Messenger app grant Facebook some rather terrifying privileges, and intrusive access to personal information. These rights include the following:

  • The ability to change the “state of network connectivity” – essentially placing people online when they don’t wish to be.
  • The ability for the app to call phone numbers “without intervention.”
  • The ability for the app to read data about contacts on devices – not just who they are, but how frequently they are called or emailed.
  • The right to read “personal profile information” and (perhaps more worryingly) send it on to others.
  • The right to take pictures and video using the phone camera at any time, without confirmation.

It’s worth noting that due to the way Apple “sandbox” apps on iOS, these privacy concerns are more valid when it comes to the use of the Android version of the Facebook Messenger app. However, unless you’re extremely casual about your personal information, there’s surely enough there to worry you?

The Current Debate

Unsurprisingly, strong debate regarding Facebook Messenger’s terms and conditions and what they really mean takes place in the comments underneath all of the numerous articles that have been written on the subject.

On one hand, people argue that Facebook Messenger and other apps need permissions like this to work effectively, which is true, but should Facebook Messenger really be able to start recording video without confirmation?

Then there’s the debate about what Facebook can and may do with all the information they gather. Yes, much of the debate is just about advertising, but many people seem surprisingly unconcerned about having details of their personal lives and connections being sold on.

On the other side of the fence, multiple petitions are springing up to force Facebook to revisit their terms and conditions. One would have to be very naïve to think that Facebook, like any other company out to make money, wouldn’t “go for gold” in terms of the information they collect, and that they couldn’t really make their apps work without being quite so intrusive.

Regardless of your personal view, you must occasionally find yourself a little freaked out when Facebook seems to suggest as a friend someone you bumped into the previous evening, despite no Facebook “mutual friends,” or when an advert suggests a product from a manufacturer you purchased something from earlier in the week, even though you’re pretty sure you’ve not mentioned it online?

These things happen all the time, so it’s clear that Facebook already know an awful lot. Do you really want to volunteer to let them know more?