Facebook recently spawned off the messenger functionality from their native app into a standalone app. Facebook says that this will improve the user experience. Well, that sounds about alright. Facebook seems to have really genuine interest on user experience. Nothing evil in it, isn't it? But I bet you will change your opinion after you see what all permissions, the ones you usually approve without reading a word, it requires on your phone.
This app has access to:
- find accounts on the device
- read your own contact card
Not bad. Most apps do that. So, fine.
Contacts / Calendar
Facebook is all about contacts and you can't send messages without contact details. Needed for better integration. Alright. Approved.
- approximate location (network-based)
- precise location (GPS and network-based)
Wait! what? Why would they need access to your location to send a message. Nobody really cares where the person is when they are typing something. Useful data for facebook to build their own maps at some point in the future using your free internet connection (just like apple did with iPhone users).
- edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- receive text messages (SMS)
- read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- send SMS messages
- receive text messages (MMS)
Facebook has no business with this unless it wants to act has the Hangout app in Android phones. Totally unnecessary data.
- directly call phone numbers
- read call log
WTF! This is just like your house guest chasing you out of your own home!
Actually I'm getting tired of this. You can read all the other NSA-ish type of permissions at the end of the post. All are red alerts to me and has no business in a Messenger App. Other apps too have the same requirements, but not as exhaustive as this. No wonder NSA is after the technology giants for more data. May be NSA's pestering will stop these companies from collecting data that they don't want.
We outrage when NSA, whose responsibility is to protect the people, makes our privacy a joke. But worse than this is that we voluntarily record our lives in the digital form and provide them for free to these companies.
There are 2 problems here.
1 - Our negligence, which is being exploited to the fullest by technology companies. We need to start looking at the apps more carefully before we install them. The more we start rejecting them, the more app developers will take a note. If you find any such app that asks for permissions that is has nothing to do with, don't install the app. But make sure to rate the app poorly and cite the reason as privacy concerns.
Why don't we all try this? Rate the Facebook Messenger App poorly on the android play store. Uninstall them if you have already installed them.
2. Poor controls from Google. Android is open and that means a lot of freedom for developers. Unlike the iPhone app ecosystem, where Apple reviews each app before it can go for public download, android eco system doesn't have that luxury because Google's revenue is only through the app market and not through Android OS. While the pros are many for this, it has it's cons as well. Poor monitoring is one such problem.
It is your responsibility to protect your own privacy. There is everyone to suck your data out of the phone. So be vigilant. Pass the message along.
Photos / Media / Files
- test access to protected storage
- modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
Camera / Microphone
- take pictures and videos
- record audio
Wi-Fi connection information
Device ID & call information
- read phone status and identity
- receive data from Internet
- download files without notification
- run at startup
- prevent device from sleeping
- view network connections
- install shortcuts
- change your audio settings
- read Google service configuration
- draw over other apps
- full network access
- read sync settings
- control vibration
- change network connectivity