Facebook Messenger App: What you need to know!


We interrupt our regularly scheduled back to school posts for an important announcement!

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There is nothing I hate worse than fear mongering, especially when it comes to technology.  So many people don’t understand all the nitty gritty technological things, and therefore are easily susceptible to someone spouting off the latest THREAT!!!

Articles like this

http://thebull.cbslocal.com/2014/08/07/facebook-crosses-the-line-with-new-facebook-messenger-app/

and this other one from way back in December…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-fiorella/the-insidiousness-of-face_b_4365645.html

are making the rounds among my friends right now, getting shared left and right.  Someone needs to hear the voices of reason, and the fear mongering has to stop!  One reason it’s getting so many shares is that now Facebook is requiring you to install the messenger app so that you can continue to instant message your friends though an application that is built more for messaging than for posting pictures, videos, links, or status messages for public consumption (or at least as public as the friends you choose anyway).  They want the user experience to be BETTER, and therefore are giving you an app that does messaging well to use for your instant messaging needs.  Keeping it apart from the main app is a good thing.  You don’t want to think you are private messaging someone and accidentally post it as a status update to your entire friends list do you?

So, let’s break down the TRUTH!  First, both posts grossly exaggerate the permissions you are granting to the messenger app.   In both posts linked above they use the words “AT ANY TIME” which is completely untrue.  I’ve looked at the permissions, and so can you.  They don’t say that.  AT ALL.  So, first, what DO they actually say?

Here is the link to the official data use policy from Facebook https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info

You can access the permissions granted to the messenger app yourself by going to the Google Play store, searching for the Facebook messenger app and then scrolling all the way down to “Additional Information”.  Click the “view details” link under permissions.  Here is what you will see…

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At no place, and no where do I see the words AT ANY TIME.  So that right there is what has so many people upset.  They really think that Facebook is going to start recording their phone calls, and sending text messages to their friends.  Yes, that’s what they love to do at Facebook, send crazy pictures to your boyfriend at 1 AM.  No, that was you, and you were drunk.

So, let’s break down what this stuff actually means?

Identity, sure, it needs to know who you are so it can tell your friends that it’s you writing them.  Great.

Contacts – It needs the ability to access your contacts so you can type in a name have it pop up and message that person.  If it doesn’t know who your friends are, how’s it going to know who you are meaning to message.

Location – It’s basically always done this.  Not sure why it’s important now, but you know when you are messaging someone and it comes back and says you were messaging from Honolulu, Hawaii?  Yeah.  I wish.  Just turn your GPS off on your phone, and guess what… it doesn’t know where you are!!

SMS – This one may be confusing to people, but one of the features of the new (we’ll just call it “new” even though these features have been around for a while actually) If you add a phone number to your account, this allows us to confirm your phone number automatically by finding the confirmation code that we send via text message.  Guess what?  Don’t add a phone number to your account, and problem solved.  BUT if you wanted to utilize the Facebook messenger for all of your texting needs (maybe you have a limited texting plan, so this allows you UNLIMITED texting with your friends), you can use it for texting.  YAY, more features!  Again, that you can CHOOSE TO USE IF YOU WANTED TO. 

Phone/Camera/Microphone – all FEATURES of the messaging app.  You can send someone a voice message, send someone a picture, call someone directly from the app, so, what’s the big deal?  Facebook isn’t going to do any of these things without YOU initiating them.

Even if you do allow these permissions, you can still turn most of them OFF… Here’s

a screenshot of the messenger’s settings page….

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See all the fun stuff you can turn OFF?  So, for giggles, lets compare it with the permissions you’ve granted to other apps you probably have on your phone (again, just follow the instructions above to look at the permissions in Google Play… for Apple, I don’t know how the heck you guys even USE those things, but I’m sure you can find it somewhere in the app store)…

Facebook – The regular Facebook app has just about ALL of the above permissions, and then some.  The only thing the messenger app has that is different from the regular Facebook app is the extended SMS section, again, so you can send and receive text messages through the app itself.

Pinterest – Same permissions except the Phone/mic part and the SMS part.  BUT…. since Pinterest has just announced instant messaging through it’s service now too, I’m sure it’s not too far behind in asking for the same permissions that the Facebook messenger has.

Instagram – again, everything but the SMS/Phone, but it does have the audio portion.

GroupMe – Not sure how many people actually use this app, but I adore it.  It has all of the above permissions… why?  Because it’s a MESSAGING APP.  It’s whole purpose is to send and receive messages.

So, basically.  Stop freaking out.  Stop freaking all of your friends out.  If you don’t like it, you are not being FORCED to use Facebook.  You especially aren’t being forced to use it on your phone.  It’s a free service.  They can choose what to do with information you post to the FREE service, but only YOU have the ability to initiate those posts.

 


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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com

6 Comments

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Leave a Reply to Cory Kent Cancel reply

    • That is a legitimate concern. I’m ok with that. I just hate the fear mongering going around about it.

  • I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned for 2 reasons. 1. It has bee brought to people’s attention that Facebook has be manipulating things for psychological studies without the subjects knowing. So clearly Facebook us paying close attention and taking advantage of the information they are given. 2. I discovered recently several photos of me on several websites I have never been on including one called wink.com. When I sent them a cease a desist letter since it is against the law for websites to post personal information about the families of public figures, I discovered that all these photos came from Facebook where I have the most strict of privacy settings. Clearly Facebook sold my information (photos) without my permission. So do I think people should think long and hard about upgrading this app on their phones…yes

  • The other thing that’s important is the main issue is with Android. Android OS requires you to give blanket permissions for all those things when you install FB Messenger, whereas on iOS on Apple phones those permissions don’t get come up until I go to take a picture, record a video, have an audio conversation. That is not a FB decision, that is an Android decision that makes apps on their system have to get blanket permissions for anything.

    Also regarding location announcement when you message, you can click the little up arrow on the right side of the window where you’re typing. If that’s blue it will send your location. If that’s clear (or in my case it’s white, the background color) it is not showing your location. It’s turned off on my phone all the time 🙂

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