This Facebook Messenger thing is the stupidest thing ever in the history of stupid things.
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) August 9, 2014
That tweet basically sums up public opinion of the new Facebook Messenger app that the social giant is forcing its mobile users to download in order to continue — uh — being social.
Why the public is so down on it is a little curious. Check out all of the great things the new Facebook Messenger App can do for you!
Weird that Facebook Messenger terms and conditions also say Mark Zuckerberg can turn on your phone and yell "Dance!" and you have to do it.
— Wil Nettleton (@wilnettleton) August 9, 2014
Did you hear? Facebook messenger can give you a rectal exam while you sleep, and it's contractually legal.
— Riot Giancarlo Volpe (@Giancarlo_Volpe) August 9, 2014
careful new facebook messenger app can smell your privates without permission
— Pete Holmes (@peteholmes) August 9, 2014
If you installed Facebook Messenger you gave Mark Zuckerberg permission to murder your family & harvest their organs for his cyborg army. 🙁
— Dan Ewen (@VaguelyFunnyDan) August 9, 2014
As you probably have guessed, these tweets exaggerate a bit the abilities of Facebook’s new Messenger app. So as the latest version of the quick text-swapping function of Facebook rolls out to an vast expanse of disappointment, we’ll examine the possible reason why:
People are not entirely appropriately informed.
A summary of the new app’s Permissions went viral in a post on Houston, Texas-based radio station 100.3 The Bull‘s website, and while what was contained in the post wasn’t “bull,” the lack of an explanation is.
As an example, the post references the app’s ability to access your phone’s microphone in this way:
Record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time – Read that line again….RECORD audio…TAKE pictures….AT ANY TIME!! That means that the folks at Facebook can see through your lens on your phone whenever they want..they can listen to what you’re saying via your microphone if they choose to!!
Now, here’s a more detailed explanation offered by Canada-based Global News:
On Android, all permissions are asked for up front when you download an app – so the user sees requests for permission to “allow the app to record audio,” for example, before they may know there is an audio recording feature.
This is quite different from iOS, which asks the user to grant permission to use features as they try to access them in the app.
Further, the article offers an explanation from an Android developer on the questionable language in the Permissions. Attila Schmidt tells Global News that regardless of what app you download in the Google Play store, if the app requires the use of your phone’s microphone, you will get the exact same question posed the exact same way. “The developer doesn’t write any copy at all. They’re prefabbed by Google,” Schmidt said.
“Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation,” would be used for any app that requires access to your phone’s microphone.
The simple fact is that apps require your permission to perform certain specific functions that you want the app to perform. Regardless of how the Permissions are worded, granting any app the ability to perform functions on your mobile device certainly comes with risks.
Facebook tries to quell the fears in its Help section, explaining:
The way [Permissions] are named doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Facebook app uses them.
A tweet previously featured in this article best summed up the sentiments of most that have downloaded the new Facebook Messenger app that now boasts a ‘1’ rating on most app stores, but this tweet best sums up the reality of the situation:
You people tweet every detail about your life but are worried about #facebookmessenger "invading your privacy". Makes sense.
— Riot Fest (@RiotFest) August 8, 2014