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)

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.

Facebook permissions

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:

  1. retrieve running apps
  2. add or remove accounts
  3. modify your contacts
  4. read calendar events plus confidential information
  5. add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge
  6. write call log
  7. adjust your wallpaper size
  8. create accounts and set passwords
  9. toggle sync on and off
  10. expand/collapse status bar
  11. set wallpaper
  12. send sticky broadcast
  13. reorder running apps
  14. connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi

Facebook has provided “examples of” how it uses some of those permissions.

To see a full list of the permissions, visit the Google Play pages for the Facebook app and the Messenger app, scroll down to “Permissions” and click on the “View details” link.

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.