The Popular iPhone App That Spies On You
Potential users of Facebook’s new messenger app may want to read the fine print on the terms and agreements before downloading.
The app, which allows users to access Facebook’s messenger service separately from their timelines, surreptitiously requests dozens of invasive permissions. Facebook currently boasts that over 1,000,000 people have downloaded the app – begging the question how many would have followed through with the download had they actually read what the app requests in return.
Huffington Post reporter Sam Fiorella read through Facebook’s extensive user agreement and compiled some of the most concerning liberties the app takes with users’ data. The stipulations listed below come verbatim from the document users unwittingly agree to by downloading the app.
1. Allows the app to change the state of network connectivity
Think you turned off your phone’s access to the internet? Think again. Should Facebook, or god knows who else, decides your phone should be connected to the internet, they now have the ability, and permission to do it.
2. Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.
Not only can Facebook make calls from your phone without your permission, but hackers exploiting potential security flaws can as well. The company admits this could result in unknown charges on the users’ bill – hopefully they won’t be long distance.
3. Allows the app to send SMS messages. This may result in unexpected charges. Malicious apps may cost you money by sending messages without your confirmation.
Imagine getting a text from your mother or your best friend’s phone number that turned out to be from a marketer, research group or government official.
4. Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.
This permission partly makes sense. The app has a built in speech to text feature that requires access to the phone’s microphone to work. That being said, the user agreement makes clear that Facebook has no obligation to stay within these innocent parameters.
5. 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.
Not only can anonymous third parties turn your phone into a surveillance device Orwell in his most nightmarish fever dream could never have imagined, they can upload these recordings to anywhere on the web – even if the internet on your phone has been turned off.
6. Allows the app to read your phone’s call log, including data about incoming and outgoing calls. This permission allows apps to save your call log data, and malicious apps may share call log data without your knowledge.
This is pretty self explanatory. Facebook, hackers, and anyone in between gets access to who you are contacting, for how long and potentially from where.
7. Allows the app to access the phone features of the device. This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.
This is horrifically vague, and leaves a lot to the imagination for Facebook’s exceedingly clever programmers.
When you download an app or use a service online for free, you are the thing being sold. Be careful what you download.