The Human Herd (Facebook Isn’t Spying on You (Yet))
Humans are the most advanced primate on the planet, but alas, we apparently aren’t the smartest.
We like to create music and art, and our ever precious technological devices to keep us connected, even on the go.
Our less evolved cousins prefer to sit around and fling poo.
Okay, we do that too. It’s called the internet. The internet has expanded the roaming distance of the herd exponentially. We have gone from living in the same cities/towns to living across country. With the internet, we are now connected to people all over the world.
We also use it to anonymously say things that we wouldn’t ordinarily say in public.The internet has brought out our inner asshole, and the poo flinging begins.
When one member of the herd smells smoke, the entire herd flees the fire. No questions asked. No one bothers to find out if someone simply built a fire to stay warm or eat.
The latest thing roaming the internet is an article from the Puffington Host discussing “The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions“. It is making the rounds on Facebook in light of Facebook wanting to move people to its new Messenger service.
Before I say anything else, I need to say this. It’s the Puffington Host, folks. Take anything it says with a grain of salt. If you follow the link provided above, the article has been updated, and there is a note at the top that more or less says they were wrong. I guess it is the internet equivalent of saying “other than that, the story was accurate.”.
People are nervous on the heels of the government spying scandals, and for good reason. But it is causing people to see bogeymen around every corner and in every shadow.
What is it about these terms of service that has everyone bent out of shape?
When you install the app, you are informed that the app will need permission to access certain features on the phone, and the phone itself. At no point are you informed why. If you go to the applications manager and actually look at the permissions for both the Facebook mobile app and the messenger service, you see this:
- directly call phone numbers (this may cost you money)
- read phone status and identity
- read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- take pictures and videos
- record audio
- approximate/precise location
- modify your contacts
- read call log
- read your contacts
- write call log
- change network connectivity
- connect and disconnect from wi-fi
- download files without notification
The same permissions are in force for the Messenger service.
On the surface, it looks pretty insidious, especially after the revelations about Facebook’s experiments on news feed posts and human emotion.
But humans are reactionary creatures, and don’t want to be bothered with actually researching stuff.
I have seen claims that the Los Angeles Times reported that these companies had been recruited by the government to spy on us since the NSA had been caught.
But there are a few questions that people aren’t asking, and some are obvious.
Why does this only affect Android phones, and not Apple phones?
Look at the HP article again. The headline says it all.
Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions (emphasis mine).
According to Facebook, it is because Android’s permissions are more stringent than Apple’s. Read their response here: Why is the Messenger app requesting permission to access features on my Android phone or tablet?
Why does it need access to your camera? So you can upload pictures and videos.
The same goes for audio recordings. It’s all so you can upload audio. I’ve actually used Messenger to send audio messages to my wife. It’s a cool, convenient feature that allows you to send a message when you don’t have time to type.
Why does it need access to your phone/contacts? So your contacts can be synced with your Facebook page. (For the record, I don’t allow the syncing of my contacts list on Facebook. At all. Yes, you can control this.)
Why can Facebook crank call the White House from your phone? Actually, it can’t. It’s to allow you to call a contact straight from Messenger.
I’m not defending Facebook. There are things about it that piss me off, but in the course of researching this, i discovered one thing that made me research this further.
Your mobile banking app uses the same permissions.
What’s preventing them from crank calling the White House, or better yet, The Kremiln?
It isn’t Facebook that people need to fear. It’s the Huffington Post.