It’s nice that Facebook is so generous and they give us their service and apps for free. One should never look a gift horse in the mouth, right? Well, if the gift horse is stomping through my bedroom and texting all of my friends while I’m not looking, I think it bears my attention. And yours. So tell me why Facebook needs these permissions on my Android phone:
- read calendar events plus confidential information
- add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge
- read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- directly call phone numbers
- create accounts and set passwords
- change network connectivity
- connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi
This is a cut and pasted subset of the list, which you can peruse at the Facebook app page on Google Play. Just scroll down to the “Additional Information” section and click the “View Details” link under the “Permissions” header. Consider:
- Many of these are invitations for identify theft. Facebook can place phone calls, send emails, and schedule appointments without your advance knowledge or explicit permission.
- With full internet access and the ability to create accounts and set passwords, Facebook could theoretically lock you out of your device and set up an account for someone else.
Now, I’m not paranoid — I don’t think that the Facebook app is doing a lot of these things. But I have no idea why it requires the permissions to do all of this, and the idea that an app might communicate with my contacts without my explicit okay causes me great concern. Sure, I want to be able to set up events on my tablet. But I want a box to pop up saying that the app will now send the invites to Joe, Mary and Grace; and then ask “Is that okay?” before it actually does it. I maintain some sensitive business relationships in my contacts. I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing for Facebook to have the ability to manage them for me.
This is all the more reason to be worried about Facebook’s plan to remove the messaging features from the Facebook app and insist that we all install Facebook Messenger if we want to share mobile pictures or chat with our friends. Because this means well have two apps with outrageous permissions if we want to use Facebook on the go.
I’ve always considered Facebook’s proposition to be a bit insidious. My family and friends are all on there. I could announce that I’m moving over to Google Plus, but most of them would not follow me there. That is the sole reason that I continue to use Facebook.
But it’s clear to me that Facebook is building it’s profit model on sharing a lot of what makes me a unique individual. I share my thoughts and opinions, likes and dislikes, and relationships on their platform. They, in turn, let their advertisers know that they have far more insight into who I am, what I’ll buy, and what my friends will buy than the average website. Google’s proposition is quite similar, but Google seems to be more upfront and respectful about it, and the lure I get from Google is “we’ll give you very useful tools in return”. Google respects me enough to show some constraint: the Google+ app on Play requires none of the permissions listed above. So I don’t consider Facebook to be a company that has much respect for me in the first place. And that’s all the more reason to not trust them with my entire reputation on my devices.
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