Facebook Messenger App: Not as Scary as you May Think!

on Wednesday, 27 August 2014. Posted in TLC Blog

Many of you have heard the hype surrounding the new Facebook Messenger app and the many permissions that asks for in order to use it.  While this may seem scary at first, it isn’t really too different than other apps of a similar nature, including the original Facebook app.  All of those apps need to have access to certain items in order to work correctly, and all of these apps ask for similar information.  Even if you don’t have the messenger app, it is highly likely that you are using one or multiple apps that already have access to the information that this one is asking for.

In this post, it is not my intent to encourage you to use the app.  It is also not my intent to make you scared of it.  The purpose is to inform you, and let you know that the app is not as “evil” as you may think.  Whether you choose to use it or not is up to you.

Why are we even being asked to download this app in the first place to use messaging?  Facebook itself answered this question saying that they are trying to provide users with a fun and fast service that they can use when they are trying to reach people.  They said that people usually respond about 20% faster when they use the messenger app. 

(Information obtained from https://m.facebook.com/messengerfactsqp_h=AZK8uBdnhhxtK5r7)

Android FB Messenger App Screen shot

FB Messenger App for Apple

Let me start by saying that some of the permissions that the app is asking for are ones that help make all features of the app work correctly.   One example of this is the Facebook Messenger app asking to have access your microphone.  The app is not doing this for the purpose of recording your phone conversations and spying on you. It has to have access to your microphone so you can use the app to voice call a friend, or to send clips that contain audio. Seriously…sending an audio message that is unable to produce sound is like trying to listen to music with no speakers.  The microphone is a necessity if you want to use this feature.

Another example of this is the Facebook Messenger app asking to have access to your camera and photos.  The app is not going to share your pictures without you knowing and post them to every public domain.  It has to have access to your photos in order for you to be able to attach and share them in messages.  You can’t send a photo to a friend if there is no photo available to share.  Allowing the app to have access to your photos is another necessity if you plan to use the app to send photos to your friends. 

One aspect of the app that might make people more uncomfortable than others is the app asking to have access to your contacts and their phone numbers.  If you are someone that feels this way, I definitely sympathize with you.  What business does an app for a social media site have asking for access to phone numbers?  Let me (hopefully) ease your mind by telling you that the app is only requesting this information so you can use it to make phone calls through the app by clicking on your contact’s phone number.  You are in control of when the calls are made and who you are calling.  The app will not make random phone calls to the contacts in your address book without you knowing about it.

The same thing is true with your text and SMS messages.  If you want to be able to send and receive text messages through the app, you have to allow the app to have access to your text messages and your contacts.  Facebook will not send messages without you knowing and is not going to read and share all of the messages in your phones inbox.  Think of it this way… The app has been downloaded to around one billion devices.  Let’s assume that, on average, each of the one billion users sends ten text messages per day (which is a low estimate).  That would mean that if the app were indeed reading each and every message sent by each and every user, they would be reading over ten billion text messages every day. 

One thing that may be most unclear is why the app is asking for access to your phone’s status and identity.  One possible explanation for wanting to know the identity of your phone or device could be to make sure you are not trying to pirate any software, but I have been unable to find a clear cut explanation for this.  If this is something that concerns you, take the time to read the full set of terms and conditions before automatically agreeing to them.  And remember, if you have used any sort of Facebook or other social media app on your phone before, they may already have access to this. 

There are other permissions that the app asks for as well, such as your location, access to your contacts, access to your accounts, and access to your Wi-Fi connections.  Like with the others, the app is not asking for these for any other purpose than to assure that the app will work correctly and be as user friendly as possible. 

I hope that this has helped you feel better about using the Facebook Messenger App.  If you are still uncomfortable, or would prefer a more traditional method of sending Facebook messages, you can do so through the website and mobile website.  This is a very interesting and fun app, and if you choose to use it, you have no reason to be scared of it!

Here are some links that I used to help me gather info for this blog post!  You might find them interesting too!


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.