FEATURE: Concerns over Facebook mandatory Messenger app

Following Facebook’s decision to require its mobile users who want to continue to use its messaging service to install its latest messenger app, experts and users alike have raised security and privacy concerns over the mandatory app.

Carey van Vlaanderen, chief executive officer (CEO), ESET Southern Africa said users should be “be alarmed, or at the very least, wary of Messenger,” noting when users install the app, it gets permission to change the state of network connectivity, call phone numbers and send SMS messages, record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time, and it can read users’ phone’s call log, including information about incoming and outgoing calls.

It is also allowed to read personal profile information stored on the device, it can access the phone features of the device, like phone number and device ID, and can also get a list of accounts known by the phone, or other apps a user has on their device.

“Apps have become a part of our mobile lifestyle and users need to educate themselves on best practice when downloading apps onto devices.  Be aware, and look out for apps demanding access to your personal information, and ask yourself – why should they have access to your SMS/MMS, calendar, events and WiFi control?” Vlaanderen said.

In addition to expert concerns over security, a substantial number of reviewers have criticised Facebook for forcing them to install the app, which has already been installed over 100 million times.

One user raised concerns that in addition to forcing users to download the app, Facebook does not allow notifications to be turned off, nor can users be “invisible”.

“I’m not always in the mood to talk to my Facebook contacts, and often I don’t have time to respond to people. Yet I am shown as always online and available, and no matter what, I can’t turn off the notifications for more than 12 hours,” the user said..

Instead of forcing users to download the app, another user said Facebook should have made it an optional service.

“This takes up way too much space. My phone can barely run with it. Forcing us to use the app sucks. I’m sure you’d still get a lot of downloads even if you did make it optional, which is exactly what I’m saying you should do,” the second user said.

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