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.
The Messenger app requires 33 permissions. Here are the four that aren’t already required by the main Facebook app:
- edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- receive text messages (SMS)
- send SMS messages
- receive text messages (MMS)
Those permissions made sense two years ago, when you could use Messenger to send SMS text messages. That feature was reportedly nixed last year. Maybe Facebook is planning to revive the SMS feature. It’s unlikely that Facebook just forgot to remove those requests. Insert conspiracy theories here.
Now take a look at the main Facebook app. It requires 43 permissions. Here are the ones that aren’t already required by the Messenger app:
- retrieve running apps
- add or remove accounts
- modify your contacts
- read calendar events plus confidential information
- add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge
- write call log
- adjust your wallpaper size
- create accounts and set passwords
- toggle sync on and off
- expand/collapse status bar
- set wallpaper
- send sticky broadcast
- reorder running apps
- connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi
Facebook has provided “examples of” how it uses some of those permissions.
Are you less concerned?
I want to know what you think. Are you more likely to install the Messenger app now? Does this information raise your concerns over the main Facebook app? Leave a comment below, or start a conversation on Twitter, where you can find me @ksablan.