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In this case at least, the Zuckerbergers don’t deserve the Big Brother accusations being lobbed their way – but they might have avoided a lot of pain if they had spelled things out for users better.
The negative reaction seems to have been spurred in part by a December 2013 Huffington Post blog article titled The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Mobile App Terms of Service.
The article, by Sam Fiorella, which has been “Liked” on Facebook more than 785,000 times, has helped to fuel the fire of public outrage with statements like: Yesterday, the post was updated to correct the author’s errors around the conflation of Android-specific permissions and Facebook’s terms of service, (which Facebook says are the same for the Messenger app as the Facebook website), and the outdated descriptions of its permissions.
There’s good reason to be skeptical of Facebook when it comes to privacy, but the Facebook Messenger app isn’t the privacy nightmare that some people think it is.Facebook is gradually forcing users of its mobile app to download the Facebook Messenger app to their smartphones and tablets in order to continue using the chat feature.In a help article on Facebook.com, the company explains why some of these permissions are needed, noting for example that accessing the device’s microphone and camera is necessary for sending video messages.Those permissions are similar to those required by other messenger apps, such as Snapchat or Viber.As Facebook points out, Google Play requires users to accept all permissions the app might need before downloading – even if some of those features are never accessed by the user.
In its help article about the Android permissions, Facebook also says the way permissions are described is controlled by Google, even though they don’t “necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them”: By contrast, Apple takes a much more granular approach to permissions for i OS apps.