Facebook Messenger users face delete dilemma

Facebook and your data

Many users of Facebook's mobile chat app have been faced with a dilemma over the last few days: to delete or keep the app.

Concerns over the information available to the app were raised in the Huffington Post back in 2013.

However over recent weeks the article has gone viral over social media, with near a quarter of a million shares (232,948) tracked on the Huffington Post as of Tuesday morning.

The poster of the article is Sam Fiorella, a partner at Sensei Marketing, which has its offices in New York and Toronto. In his post, Fiorella claimed:

"Facebook's Messenger App, which boasts more than 200,000 million monthly users, requires you to allow access to an alarming amount of personal data and, even more startling, direct control over your mobile device."

The Huffington Post itself no longer displays the originally article, which was updated yesterday afternoon. People interested in the original content have to dig a little deeper.

Direct control over your mobile device?

The language used in the app's permissions, cited by Fiorella in the post, was different before the update yesterday. But the copy that caused the original reaction does still exist on the Wayback Machine, a San Francisco based website which tracks, stores and achieves internet pages.

In an old version of the post, marked July 31st, Fiorella says: "I've posted, word for word, a few of the most aggressive app permissions you've accepted."

Fiorella then lists several items, two examples of which are:

  • "Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation."
  • "Allows the app to get a list of accounts known by the phone. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed."

In response to the publicity created by Fiorella's blog and similar stories appearing across the internet, Facebook said:

"Almost all apps need certain permissions to run... the way they're named doesn't necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them."

The current version of the article no longer claims to show exactly what permissions Facebook asks, instead showing "a full list of Android's current permissions".

Christina Warren, the Senior Tech Analyst at Mashable, also with offices in New York, has written a detailed post in which she says that the language of the permissions makes them appear more frightening than they actually are. In the post, she aims to relieve the fear by showing reasons for each permission.

Yet Warren's effort did not dispel the controversy. One commenter on the site accused Mashable of taking payment from Facebook for the article.

Kleon West, business development director at theEword said: "We can be certain Facebook wants users to stay with the site, as that's the whole basis of its business. But with the recent emotion experiment it conducted, people's trust in it may be eroding.

"Because of this, even when stories which could be dismissed as sensational appear, it can have this dramatic effect were people leave at the drop of a hat. No doubt securing trust is something which Facebook's execs will be very conscious of."