Facebook Messenger asks for ONLY FOUR extra permissions

Facebook Messenger App
Facebook Messenger app by Kārlis Dambrāns licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Facebook Messenger app for Android asks for exactly four permissions that aren’t already required by the main Facebook app. If you’re worried about the social network accessing your phone, focus your concern on the  main Facebook app. It asks for 10 more permissions than Messenger.

I decided to dig a little after the Messenger app attracted more scrutiny this week. Security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski described “spyware type code” he found after disassembling and examining the iOS app’s code.

The Google Play store lists each app’s permission, so I compared the full list of permissions for the Facebook app and the Messenger app. I didn’t compare the iOS apps because Apple’s App Store does not itemize each app’s permissions.

Messenger permissions

The Messenger app requires 33 permissions. Here are the four that aren’t already required by the main Facebook app:

  1. edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)
  2. receive text messages (SMS)
  3. send SMS messages
  4. receive text messages (MMS)

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Warning: my #ScaryFarm tweets might be biased

Knott's Scary Farm Holloween Haunt 2011-83 by Dave Klukken licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Knott’s Scary Farm Holloween Haunt 2011-83 by Dave Klukken licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I accepted an invitation to attend an event in exchange for sharing my experience through my various social media accounts. It’s something I never would’ve done when I worked for a news organization.

Journalists have to decline such invitations because readers might criticize positive coverage that could be perceived as quid pro quo. It feels great to accept the invitation and just say publicly that I’m doing this because I’m getting in free. It will also be nice to just have a good time without worrying about turning in an article or column.

When you see my tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram photos from #ScaryFarm later this month, know that I’m doing it because I was asked to by Knott’s Berry Farm, an amusement park in Buena Park, California.

But who am I kidding? I’ll be sharing my experience because I tweet when I’m at live events. That’s just what I do. And I enjoy using Instagram and Facebook to share pictures and pose questions.

By the way, I’m already biased. I first attended Knott’s Scary Farm when I was in junior high, and have gone many times since. I visited Knott’s frequently when I was in high school and my friends worked there. I had a great time when the O.C. Register held a 100-year anniversary celebration there a few years back.

Knott’s didn’t ask me to share only my positive comments about Scary Farm. I probably would’ve turned down the invitation if they had made such a request. It’s the right way to bring social “influencers” into a company’s marketing efforts. First, make sure the product, service, or event is good. Then, invite people to share honestly.

That said, I won’t hesitate to share any negative “news” if it happens when I’m there. But take a look at my previous social media posts. I don’t complain about long lines. I don’t talk smack about how “the guy in front of me just did such and such.” I don’t spout off about singularly poor customer service experiences.

Before I sign off, here is a picture of my friends Calvin Lee, Debbie Miller and Darin McClure at a similar Knott’s Berry Farm event last year. I’m adding it here just because they are my friends. How is that for bias?

Imagine being Facebook for just one user

Facebook for real by Christoph Aigner
facebook_for_real by Christoph Aigner licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Being Facebook can’t be easy. People complain whenever you make a change. Users are upset when you ask permission to get your job done. No matter what you try, your customers groan about how you decide what will show up in their News Feeds.

I’m sure I could do a better job than Facebook’s algorithms, so follow me as I step into the social network’s shoes.

I slip on my new sneakers and, before I can take a step, Mary comes to visit.

Forty-year-old Mary is one of my 829 million daily visitors.  She’s coming to look at pictures and videos from her 200 friends and 70 companies she “likes.”

I want to keep Mary happy. I want her to come back. I need to show her what she wants.

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Facebook Follow doesn’t follow its own definition

Banksy in Boston by Chris Devers licensed by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Banksy in Boston by Chris Devers licensed by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen was upset yesterday about Facebook’s Follow function, which lets users see other people’s posts without becoming their friends. Rosen wrote a short Facebook post about how journalists and other “content creators” can’t tell which of their followers see their posts. “Facebook decides that. How is a mystery,” explains Rosen. “Relevance. Algorithm. Beyond that, you’re left clueless.”

More than 180,000 people follow Rosen on Facebook. Following is not the same as an email subscription, where each subscriber gets every message sent. Delivery of each post is at the mercy of the social network’s algorithms, so Rosen’s posts aren’t shown to all of his 180,000+ followers.

Facebook “busted” a deal with content creators, says Rosen. It’s a deal that he once understood to be:

“You don’t whine about working and producing for free, we give your stuff distribution to the people who have elected to receive it.”

I can’t confirm that such a deal was ever made, but here is an interesting entry from Facebook’s answer to the question, “What does it mean to follow someone?

Straight from the horse's mouth
Straight from the horse’s mouth

That looks like a subscription to me. Facebook’s definition doesn’t include a qualifier before “their posts.” It doesn’t say “some of their posts” or “many of their posts” or “a selection of their posts.” It says that I will see the posts of the people I’ve decided to follow.

What do you think? Did Facebook break its deal with you when you chose to Follow someone? Do you want to see every post from every person you Follow?