Shruti DhapolaAug 28, 2014 11:13:20 IST
Facebook recently made the Messenger app compulsory for all smartphone users. Essentially chats are no longer in the regular Facebook app, and you have to download Messenger if you want read all your Facebook chats on your smartphone. Thanks to this forced policy, Facebook's Messenger app is currently the top app in Android and iOS as well.
But the reception to the Messenger app hasn't been all positive. For instance, this petition claims that app would mean a gross violation of user privacy as it allows Facebook access to "your phone camera and record audio, call and send messages without your permission, identify details about you and all your contacts, and send that info on to third parties." As a side note, it should be pointed out that a lot of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Hike, Telegram ask for access to camera, contacts, microphone since that's how the apps are able to provide features like sharing photos, etc.
The app, in that sense, isn't worse for your privacy than a lot of other apps, some of which demand access to camera, microphone, even though they are not really using these functions. The rumours, however, have managed to gain some serious attention and now Facebook's Messenger team has written a post clarifying the issues and busting these rumours.
According to the blog post by Facebook Messenger Team's Peter Martinazzi, "some have claimed that the app is always using your phone's camera and microphone to see and hear what you're doing. These reports aren't true, and many have been corrected."
So how exactly does Facebook use the camera and microphone. As the blogpost explains, like most other apps.
The post reads, "Like most other apps, we request permission to run certain features, such as making calls and sending photos, videos or voice messages. If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone's camera and capture that photo. We don't turn on your camera or microphone when you aren't using the app."
Facebook has also written an explainer of sorts on why they have asked people to install this app. According to the post, "We're committed to providing a fast, reliable and fun messaging app that anyone in the world can use to reach the people who matter to them. That's why we're focusing just on Messenger and moving messages out of the Facebook app." The post also says that people usually respond about 20 percent faster when they have Messenger.
Facebook's messaging strategy appears to be a bit warped. Let's not forget that Facebook bought WhatsApp, (which also lets you add your list of Facebook friends should you choose to do so), and that Facebook owned Instagram recently launched its own Snapchat like app called Bolt. Then Facebook too introduced its own Snapchat rival called Slingshot.
So yes, the number of Messenger apps that can be linked to Facebook the company are growing in number. And Facebook's argument that Messenger will get people to respond faster (read as use the app more) isn't really convincing.
As far as the privacy concerns go it should be remember that the terms of service are the same as Facebook's own official terms. Unlike the rumours, Facebook won't be able to use the app SMS, or text, messages without your permission nor will it record your conversations in secret.
If you're still not convinced, it's best that you go off smartphones for a while.
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