Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Does Facebook Want To Read My Text Messages? (updated)

Newest version of Facebook App wants to read your text messages.  WHY?

The other day I was going to manually update my smartphone Facebook app and there were some interesting messages abut permissions that the app wanted.  One of them was the permission to read my text messages.

Why would Facebook want to read my text messages?

UPDATE (1-19-14):  This opinion piece was originally posted on 12-26-13.  Today I took a look at the update text and there is now no mention of the app wanting to read my text messages.  Hmm, I wonder what's up with that?

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A Tiny Bit of Personal Back Story

With my smartphone, I un-check the "automatic update" option.  I do that for a few reasons.

Once, my (Google) "Maps" app chose to update itself automatically at the worse possible moment... while I was needing it, lost in traffic.

The other reason I turn off the automatic updates is because it seems that as apps update themselves, sometimes I see improved functionality, but many times, I notice the ads delivered with the apps are "improved."  Or harder to dodge, ignore or block!

For example, "Fruit Ninja" used to be a simple fun game, but it started to get populated with more aggressive ads. (Bah bye!)

Another app called "TV Listings" started inserting more intrusive popup ads.  Their latest update once informed us they'll be installing improved ad delivery.  Like, um, nope... not gonna install that update!

Then there was the Disney owned "Star Wars Angry Birds" app.  I was getting movie trailers between game levels.  My data plan wasn't approving, that's for sure.  (Bah bye again.)

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Studies have shown that most folks do not look at and/or read  the permissions that apps say they need or are using. But since I've been so over-hyped about some of the things the apps do, (I know, I should just let it go, but some days, I can't.) I tend to look them over.

So when I update apps, I look at the permissions that an app is asking for.

Most apps want access to your calls so they know when to shut themselves down or go to some hold mode so you can get or make calls.

The same can be said for access to your camera...

But then some apps want access to some amazingly surprising features.  And though I am no expert, I don't feel like some apps need them.

When I looked at Facebook's newest permissions, I found it interesting, to say the least.

Check it out, they want to...

Read your text messages (SMS or MMS):

Their reasoning:

(If you add a phone number to your account, this allows us to confirm your phone number automatically by finding the confirmation code that we send via text message.)

Wait?  What? 

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Download files without notification:

Their reasoning:

(This allows us to improve the app experience by pre-loading News Feed content.)

Can't knock that one... if they quit messing with my preferences!

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Read/write your contacts:

Their reasoning:

(These permissions allow you to import your phone’s contacts to Facebook and sync your Facebook contacts to your phone.)

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Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge:

Their reasoning:

(This allows you to see your Facebook events in your phone’s calendar.)

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Read calendar events plus confidential information
:

Their reasoning:

(This allows the app to show your calendar availability (based on your phone’s calendar) when you’re viewing an event on Facebook.)

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To be honest, it makes me wonky letting Facebook (FB) "read my text messages."  I don't want them to see my sexting!!!  LOL.

I've already dissed FB with syncing my contacts to the app... it's a pain in the ass to disassociate contacts from FB.  Stay away from my contacts FB!!!

Hmm...  read my "confidential information?"  Huh, what info?

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Now from what I understand, other apps already read your text messages.  (Google Voice).  But I also read that if game apps want access to that information, that's a red flag.  Don't install those games.  At least that's the warning I've read.

But then there are the permissions that seem insidious, but are actually useful.  Like "call cell phone numbers without your intervention," which actually means you allow an app to auto-dial a number that pops up in a Google search!  But the phrasing leaves me worried in how it's so generic.  It doesn't specify what that function might do.

So since I am less happy with most updates on my smartphone these days, I've set them to manual and I pick and choose which ones, if any, I update.

Don't get me wrong.  They're all good apps.  And all app makers need to define a way to survive and be solvent in this world of "free" apps.  So I get it.

But I just have to wonder how far is too far?  How many apps will we find gathering data on us that they don't tell us about?

(BEWARE Amazon Kindle App Reader Version 4.30 Updat...)
(And App Makers Wonder Why We Don't Trust Them!)

And I've seen various other slip ups my app makers. 

We're still in the "wild west" of smartphones and apps.  So there will be this learning curve we're all in.  And someday, this will all be the norm.  But when Facebook, after various other aspects of their service lights up folks radars, well, it makes me wonder why they are now looking to read our text messages.  For now, I'm not updating my app.  For now that is.

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{tech2.in.com: android-43-comes-with-a-hidden-app-permission-manager}

{techcrunch.com: android-app-ops}


{Facebook Smartphone App Permissions}

{techhive.com: androids_permission_problems}

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1 comment:

  1. Same here. I haven't updated FB for some time and have no problems keeping that way. I just don't understand why Google allows them to access that information. I wonder if Apple allows FB all that access.

    ReplyDelete

Hi - sorry for the confirmation but I need to weed out the noise from the well intended comments. Thanks for leaving a note... - Bruce