(Source: Schroeder 2014, Facebook Messenger for iOS Gets Groups and Forwarding, accessed: 8/9/2014, http://mashable.com/2014/03/28/facebook-messenger-ios-groups/)
The recent development of the Facebook Messenger application has been labelled an invasion of privacy among users. The app’s been given a poor rating of 1 and a half stars, users who want to participate in messenger mobile have no choice but to install it, and upon reading the terms and conditions, they can seem alarming.
• “Call phone numbers and send SMS messages
• Record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time
• Read your phone’s call log, including info about incoming and outgoing calls
• Read your contact data, including who you call and email and how often
• Read personal profile information stored on your device” (Dewey 2014).
Before you go into panic, these settings do differ between Androids and iPhones. Albergotti (2014) explains that the app can pose more affect to Android users because Android has a rigid policy which requires users to agree to all permissions before they can even use the app. Whereas, iPhone users can choose not to give the app permission to access some features such as the microphone and address book. According to Facebook (2014), these permissions are what the user can do e.g. the app allows you to take photos, videos, voice recordings and be able to send them within messenger. Click here to find out more.
Some reports argue that these terms and conditions are nothing new. Bogart (2014) notes that similar controls and personal data collection can be found in apps such as RunKeeper that “asks for permission to access your phone’s contacts and call logs, while WeatherBug wants permission to view your Wi-Fi network and other devices connected to it”.
Although this might be so, the surveillance of information flows on the app can be particularly concerning when Messenger conversations are generally used to disclose a message to an individual or small group in a more private way than a wall post. Mitew (2014) continues that Facebook’s control over information and rules is part of its structure. Facebook is a walled garden, a closed network of curated control and within it, there are rules on how to use the content (Mitew 2014). It’s easy to say to privacy-conscious users to leave the walled garden, but it’s not as simple as it seems. Despite the high levels of control, people still want to be in the walled garden because it entails a sense of belonging and community, which is also shared with loved ones and friends.
After much research and investigation into the Facebook Messenger app, it still makes me think twice about what I share online and on Messenger. For many, it’s come as a reminder that whilst the user is a big part and contributor of walled gardens, we do not have the ability and control, which the networks do.
Albergotti, R 2014, ‘Facebook Messenger Privacy Fears? Here’s What to Know’, Digits, 8 August, accessed: 4/9/2014, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/08/08/facebook-messenger-privacy-fears-heres-what-you-need-to-know/
Bogart, N 2014, ‘What you need to know about concerns over Facebook’s Messenger app’, Global News, 5 August, accessed: 4/9/2014, http://globalnews.ca/news/1492783/what-you-need-to-know-about-concerns-over-facebooks-messenger-app/
Dewey, C 2014, ‘Yes the Facebook Messenger app requests creepy invasive permissions but so does every other app’, The Washington Post, 4 August, accessed: 4/9/2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/08/04/yes-the-facebook-messenger-app-requests-creepy-invasive-permissions-but-so-does-every-other-app/
Facebook 2014, ‘Why is the Messenger app requesting permission to access features on my Android phone or tablet?’, Facebook, accessed: 8/9/2014, https://www.facebook.com/help/347452185405260
Mitew, T 2014, iFeudals: big data, surveillance, permission control, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 2 September.