Smart phone apps’ security questioned

Talia Hendel, Sports News Editor

The messaging feature will no longer be an option on the Facebook app, but will instead only be available as a separate app called Facebook Messenger. While this stand-alone app has existed in the past, Facebook is now forcing users to download it if they want to be able to contact their Facebook friends through Facebook messaging.

Facebook has sent out emails to users regarding the change, and has also released this statement: “In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app.”

The statement continued: “As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.”

Morgan McWhirter ’17 said she would download the app because it is more efficient than going on the computer, but says that she will use caution due to the extensive permissions of the app.

The app’s permissions include many things that seem to be unrelated to messaging, such as editing text messages, testing access to protected storage, modifying or deleting the contents of your USB storage taking pictures and videos, recording audio, downloading files without notification and more.

This has caused some concern among students.

“I was confused and frustrated because isn’t it illegal to be reaching into people’s private lives?” Logan Murphy ’15 said. She added that after hearing about this, she immediately deleted the app.

The Facebook app’s disclaimer was written by Google and it’s the way all Android’s handle camera access. Though it is possible for Facebook to record video and audio without you knowing, a Facebook spokesperson said it won’t happen, according to an article in Businessinsider.com.

“Although I don’t think any of this has ever happened through my app, knowing that it could is definitely scary,” Abby Lustig ’15 said. “It’s frustrating that they go so far with infringing our privacy, and I don’t understand why some of the things that are in the terms and conditions (like taking pictures and videos and sending, receiving, and reading texts) are reasonable or necessary for the company to include.”

Many apps that have various permissions associated with them ask the user to check a box that says, “I accept the terms and conditions,” while this app does not. While the permissions are listed when users go to download it, they are not very easy to find, as they are located on the bottom of the page on the app store under a tab labeled “Permissions” where one has to click “View Permissions” in order to see the list.

“After learning [about the permissions] I feel violated. I’ll definitely keep the app because I use it often and it is very helpful. But knowing these details I’ll definitely use it with caution and maybe use alternatives like texting instead of Facebook messaging,” Emma Fasciolo ’16 said.

The removal of the messaging feature on the main Facebook app has not occurred yet, but is set to do so in the near future. If users choose not to download the separate Facebook Messenger app, then they will have no way of messaging through Facebook.